Urinary excretion of reduced metabolites of digoxin

Am J Med. 1981 Jul;71(1):67-74. doi: 10.1016/0002-9343(81)90260-6.


The urinary excretion of the relatively cardioinactive reduced metabolites of digoxin, dihydrodigoxin and related compounds was measured by radioimmunoassay in 131 normal subjects during studies of the bioavailability of digoxin preparations. Digoxin reduction products (DRP) constitute more than 5 percent of the excretion of digoxin and its metabolites in one-third of the volunteers after the administration of single or multiple doses of digoxin. There was little or no output of DRP during the first 8 hours after a single dose, with maximal excretion usually occurring on the second day. Most subjects who excreted more than 5 percent DRP on one occasion did so with each subsequent exposure to digoxin. Six volunteers, however, in whom substantial amounts of DRP had previously been found, failed to excrete detectable quantities after subsequent doses. In two, this change occurred shortly after they took erythromycin. Urinary DRP were less after the intravenous administration compared to the oral administration of digoxin. After oral doses, DRP excretion tended to vary inversely with the bioavailability of the preparation. The findings are consistent with the hypothesis that DRP are formed as the result of the activity of a variable component of the intestinal flora. Prospective studies will be necessary to prove this hypothesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biological Availability
  • Digoxin / analogs & derivatives
  • Digoxin / metabolism*
  • Digoxin / urine
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Radioimmunoassay


  • dihydrodigoxin
  • Digoxin