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Digitalis Toxicity

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Digitek is a drug prescribed for patients who have experienced heart failure or have an abnormal heart rhythm. Some Digitek tablets may have been manufactured at twice the normal thickness and thus contain twice the approved amount of the drug's active ingredient. This can lead to a potentially deadly condition called digitalis toxicity, especially in patients with compromised kidney function.

In April of 2008 the manufacturer of Digitek, Actavis Towowa LLC, announced a massive Class I recall of its product. The recall involves 800 million pills and may affect as many as 1 million heart patients. Hundreds of patients may have died or been injured as a result of taking Digitek and similar digitalis-based medications. If you believe you or someone you know may have been harmed by taking one of these treatment mistakes, you may be able to obtain compensation for pain and suffering, medical expenses and other factors. An experienced personal injury attorney can evaluate your case, give you examples of defective drug settlements and advise you of your options.

At-risk Groups

Certain groups face an increased risk of digitalis toxicity. People who have experienced kidney failure are at particular risk because they are less able to filter digitalis from the body.

Heart patients are also at increased risk because they often take diuretics, which can deplete the body of potassium, an essential component in the body's filtration system. Magnesium plays a similar role, and therefore patients with low levels of magnesium who take digitalis-based drugs are also at risk for digitalis toxicity.

Injuries Caused by Digitalis Toxicity

Digitalis toxicity can lead to a variety of complications, including cardiac instability and arrythmias (abnormal heartbeat) such as bradycardia (slow heartbeat), which in turn may cause other complications — or even death. It can occur in patients with a decreased tolerance for digitalis, those who are unable to properly filter digitalis from the body, and people who have taken inappropriate doses of digitalis medications such as Digitek.


Even normal levels of digitalis have the potential to cause digitalis toxicity in patients with a low tolerance. Normal digitalis levels can also cause digitalis toxicity if other risk factors are present. For example, if a patient takes a normal dose of Digitek in combination with a drug that interacts poorly with Digitek, digitalis toxicity may occur. Patients taking quinidine, amiodarone, verapamil and other drugs that interact with digitalis should speak with their physicians and pharmacists before taking Digitek.

Symptoms of digitalis include the following:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Irregular pulse
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Palpitations
  • Confusion
  • Visual changes

If you or someone you know is taking Digitek and experiences any of these symptoms, it is important to see a doctor immediately, as there is a chance of deadly arrythmias or even heart failure.

Treatment for Digitalis Toxicity

Treatment for digitalis toxicity depends on what complications arise.

In an emergency, CPR and or other appropriate emergency measures should be taken (by those qualified to administer them) and the patient should be transported to a hospital immediately.

Acute toxicity may be treated with activated charcoal or gastric lavage, wherein a tube is passed down the throat to “wash” the stomach. In addition, extreme cases of digitalis poisoning may require treatment with antibodies or with hemodialysis, during which blood is extracted, filtered, and re-injected into the bloodstream.

Several tests may be performed to determine the appropriate treatment. This may include a heart rate assessment, an ECG to check for irregular heartbeat, and blood tests to check the patient's levels of potassium, magnesium, BUN, creatinine, digoxin and digitoxin.

Digitek Lawsuits

The manufacturers and distributors of Digitek and other digitalis-based drugs have been accused of various offenses and acts of negligence, including the production and distribution of a defective drug, failure to maintain equipment in proper working order, and other violations.

Critics of Actavis also note that the company's New Jersey plant was known to have substandard production practices long before the recall was initiated. The FDA warned Actavis to clean up its practices on two occasions: once in 2006 and once in 2007. Many injury claims that have been filed cite this as negligence on the part of Actavis.

If you believe you or someone you love has been harmed or died as a result of taking a digitalis drug, personal injury and wrongful death attorneys can help you learn about defective drug settlements, court awards, and compensation for negligent death. You may be able to receive compensation from the parties responsible for your suffering; however, statutes of limitations apply in most states, so the time you have to file your lawsuit is limited.