Differential Pharmacokinetics of Digoxin in Elderly Patients

C G Hanratty, P McGlinchey, G D Johnston, A P Passmore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Citations (Scopus)


Digoxin remains one of the most commonly prescribed of all cardiac medications. The main indications for digoxin usage include atrial fibrillation and heart failure; both these conditions are more prevalent in older patients. Given the aging population and the increasing incidence of heart failure we would expect prescribing of digoxin to remain as frequent or to even increase in older patients. Older patients are also more likely to develop toxicity and diagnosis of digoxin toxicity can be difficult in this group. Numerous components contribute to the development of toxicity in older patients, ranging from aging-related changes in renal function or body mass to polypharmacy and possible interactions with digoxin. It is therefore important to understand how the pharmacokinetics of digoxin may be altered in the older population. Application of basic pharmacological principles may be helpful in anticipating these problems. This review describes the pharmacokinetics of digoxin, the changes in pharmacokinetics with increasing age and how concomitant disease states or drug interactions may affect the pharmacokinetics of digoxin. Greater knowledge about the causes and prevention of digoxin toxicity should further reduce the morbidity and mortality arising from digoxin toxicity, especially in the elderly population.
For over 200 years debate has raged regarding the use of digitalis glycosides in cardiac disease. At present digoxin is the most commonly prescribed digitalis compound. This review describes the pharmacokinetics of digoxin and in particular how they are altered with increasing age. When considering the elderly population it is important to recognise the heterogeneity of response in this group, therefore there are no rules, with regards to prescribing, that can apply to the entire elderly population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353-62
Number of pages10
JournalDrugs & Aging
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2000

Bibliographical note

Chapter Number: Review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Pharmacology


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