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Two common drugs for irregular heartbeat are killers
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Two of the most common drugs for atrial fibrillation, or irregular heartbeat, could be killers, new research has discovered this week

Two of the most common drugs for atrial fibrillation, or irregular heartbeat, could be killers, new research has discovered this week. Patients taking warfarin, a blood-thinner, or digoxin face a significant risk of dying from either drug.
The digoxin patient with atrial fibrillation has a 41 per cent greater risk of dying from any cause, say researchers from the University of Kentucky. Earlier studies had highlighted the same problem, but had been dismissed because it was thought the patient was very sick.
But the new study has found the same risk exists even among healthy people. A 41 per cent risk is consistent whether the patient is male or female, and has, or doesn't have, heart disease.
Although digoxin is helpful in people with heart failure, doctors should think twice about using the drug for atrial fibrillation alone.
In a separate study, 11.8 per cent of patients taking warfarin for atrial fibrillation suffer bleeding every year that is so serious that it can fatal. Of these, 20 per cent died in the hospital or soon after.
(Sources: digoxin-European Heart Journal, 2012; doi: m10.1093/eurheart/ehs348; warfarin-Canadian Medical Association Journal, 2012: doi:10.1503/cmaj.121218).


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