Why is the use of digitalis withering? Another reason that we need medical heart failure specialists.
Milton Packer M.D.
Packer, M. (2017). “Why is the use of digitalis withering? Another reason that we need medical heart failure specialists.” Eur J Heart Fail: 2017 Oct [Epub ahead of print].
Contrary to popular opinion, William Withering did not discover digitalis nor was he the first to describe its use for heart failure. In 1785, the esteemed English botanist and physician wrote a pamphlet that summarized his experiences in 163 patients with dropsy. Yet, at the time, digitalis had been known to exert important pharmacological effects for 2000 years. In the first century, the Greek physician, Pedanius Dioscorides, noted the use of digitalis as a therapeutic agent; its application to heart failure was first recorded in print by Leonard Fuchs in 1542.1 Nevertheless, Withering was the first to systematically carry out clinical studies with the plant in a scientific manner, eliminating the superstition that had long surrounded it. Withering’s work was ground-breaking, not because of what he discovered, but how he approached its evaluation. It was the first use of the scientific method for the characterization of a pharmaceutical.