Promising news for digitalis

Doctors may be changing the way they think about digitalis again, says lead Bertram Pitt, MD, of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

In 1997, the Digitalis Investigation Group (DIG) found digoxin reduced CHF hospitalization by 28% and lowered general hospitalizations by 6%. Although patients on digoxin could improve their exercise tolerance, DIG found no change in patient survival between patients who took digoxin and those who did not.

That finding may change, however. Pitt explains that when digitalis is used with spironolactone, the drug may have a synergistic effect in CHF patients. He notes that some of the fatalities that occurred in the DIG trial among the participants receiving digitalis were due to arrhythmia.

"Spironolactone may be working to lessen these risks, and it looks like you would get increased survivability," he says.