Digoxin belongs to a class of drugs called cardiac glycosides or digitalis glycosides. Digitalis medications, such as digoxin, are extracted from the digitalis plant, which is more commonly known as foxglove.
Digoxin works by blocking sodium-potassium ATPase, an enzyme in the body that controls the amount of sodium and potassium that enters the cells. By blocking this enzyme, digoxin increases the amount of calcium and potassium inside heart cells. With this action, digoxin helps the heart contract more forcefully with each heartbeat, making it more efficient at pumping blood throughout the body. It also slows down the rate at which the heart beats.
(Click Digoxin for a closer look at the drug's actions on the heart and how it works to make the heart more efficient. This article also lists possible side effects, covers general dosing guidelines, and explains why this drug is not suitable for some people.)
Written by/reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Food and Drug Administration, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. Electronic orange book: approved drug products with therapeutic equivalence evaluations. FDA Web site. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/cder/ob/. Accessed February 18, 2011.
National Library of Medicine (US). Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMED). NLM Web site. Available at: http://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/sis/htmlgen?LACT. Accessed February 18, 2011.
Digoxin. Drug Facts and Comparisons. Drug Facts and Comparisons 4.0 [online]. 2011. Available from Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. Accessed February 18, 2011.
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