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The drug digoxin, also known as digitalis, may be an inexpensive way to cut the rehospitalization rate of heart failure patients by more than 30%, according to researchers.

Once commonly taken by heart patients, digoxin use plummeted after a 1997 study showed the drug did not lower death rates. However, researchers led by the University of Alabama-Birmingham’s Ali Ahmed, M.D., M.P.H., recently reexamined the 1997 study. They found trial group members on digoxin were 34% less likely to be admitted to the hospital within a 30-day period than those not on the medication. Of 6,800 people in the 1997 trial group, half were 65 or older.

Digoxin holds the promise to bring down 30-day all-cause hospital readmission rates associated with heart failure, but researchers must now see if the study results can be “replicated in contemporary hospitalized older patients,” the report in the American Journal of Medicine stated.

Digoxin is potentially a “very simple, low-cost tool” to reduce the burden on healthcare providers that are seeing payment penalties tied to hospital readmission rates, Ahmed noted.