PMID: 3921586May 1, 1985

Pharmacokinetics, bioavailability and serum levels of cardiac glycosides

Journal of the American College of Cardiology
T W Smith


Digoxin, the cardiac glycoside most frequently used in clinical practice in the United States, can be given orally or intravenously and has an excretory half-life of 36 to 48 hours in patients with serum creatinine and blood urea nitrogen values in the normal range. Since the drug is excreted predominantly by the kidney, the half-life is prolonged progressively with diminishing renal function, reaching about 5 days on average in patients who are essentially anephric. Serum protein binding of digoxin is only about 20%, and differs markedly in this regard from that of digitoxin, which is 97% bound by serum albumin at usual therapeutic levels. Digitoxin is nearly completely absorbed from the normal gastrointestinal tract and has a half-life averaging 5 to 6 days in patients receiving usual doses irrespective of renal function. The bioavailability of digoxin is appreciably less than that of digitoxin, averaging about two-thirds to three-fourths of the equivalent dose given intravenously in the case of currently available tablet formulations. Recent studies have shown that gut flora of about 10% of patients reduce digoxin to a less bioactive dihydro derivative. This process is sensitive to antibiotic administration, creating the pot...Continue Reading


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