In this lesson, we’ll learn about a medication called digoxin. Digoxin is a medication for the heart. We’ll focus on its classification, pharmacology, and structure.


Digoxin is a medication with the name brand of Lanoxin. It is a medication that is used for mild to moderate heart failure. It is effective for heart failure by helping the heart to beat stronger. It is also used for atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation causes a rapid heart rate that doesn’t allow the heart ventricles to adequately fill, therefore impairs the amount of blood being pumped out to the body. Digoxin manages atrial fibrillation by helping the heart to have a more regular rhythm.

Digoxin comes from the leaves of a plant called foxglove or digitalis purpurea. It is a beautiful plant that is considered to be poisonous due to the strong effects it has on the heart.

Let’s learn more about this medication!


Medications are identified by classification, which includes a group of drugs that either have the same chemical structure, the same mechanism of action, or the same effect. A drug can belong to more than one classification.

Digoxin is classified as a cardiac glycoside. Glycosides are any compound containing a plant-derived sugar that is converted into a sugar and nonsugar component through hydrolysis. Cardiac glycosides come from primarily plant sources and make the heart beat stronger and regular. Other medications that are in the cardiac glycoside class include digitoxin and desanoslide.

Pharmacology & Structure

Pharmacology refers to the study of drugs and how they are used. Specifically, it looks at the qualities of the drug and the effects of the drug. Simply put, pharmacology is how the drug works.

Digoxin works on the cellular level of the heart. It involves inhibiting the system of sodium and potassium exchange in and out of the cell. This causes increased levels of sodium in the cell, which reverses the actions of sodium and calcium exchange. The overall effect is increased calcium in the cell, which increases the contractions of the heart and decreases the heart rate. So now we have some understanding of how digoxin works on the cellular level, let’s look at the basic structure of digoxin.

We all remember the periodic table of elements in school and learning that H20 makes water. It’s the same concept when looking at the structure of a drug. The structure of a drug shows what the drug is made of down to the elements that make it up. The best way to understand the structure of digoxin is to see the structure which is shown below:

digoxin structure

Lesson Summary

Digoxin is a medication that comes from the leaves of the digitalis plant. It is used to treat mild to moderate heart failure as well as atrial fibrillation. The effects of digoxin result in increased strength of the heart contractions, making it pump blood better. It also helps to maintain a regular heart rhythm.

Classification of medications is determined by a common chemical structure, action, or effect. The classification for digoxin is cardiac glycosides. Cardiac glycosides primarily come from plants, and the effects include making the heart beat stronger and regular.

The pharmacology of digoxin involves the complicated cellular processes of sodium and potassium exchange in the cells of the heart. Ultimately, sodium levels in the cells increase, which reverses the usual sodium and calcium exchange. Calcium levels in the cell are then increased, which makes the heart beat stronger and decreases and regulates the heart rate.

Medical Disclaimer: The information on this site is for your information only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.