What molecule am I?
Digoxin is a secondary glycoside produced by plants in the Digitalis (foxglove) genus that were used for medicinal purposes as long ago as the 18th century. In 1930, Sydney Smith at Burroughs Wellcome (London) isolated it from one species, D. lanata.
The US Food and Drug Administration approved the use of digoxin as a heart-disease medication in the late 1990s. It has been prescribed ever since under trade names such as Lanoxin for atrial fibrillation and heart failure. Digoxin, however, has a narrow therapeutic index; and drug interactions and adverse side effects are common. It has shown efficacy against some cancers, but other studies indicated that patients on digoxin have an increased risk of developing cancer.
Overdose is often fatal, as shown in the hazard information table. In 2003, a hospital nurse pleaded guilty to killing as many as 40 patients with digoxin and other heart medications.
Digoxin should not be confused with digitoxin1, which has one fewer hydroxyl group and is also a heart medication. For a new wrinkle on digoxin, see Molecule of the Future below.
1. CAS Reg. No. 71-63-6.
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