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Drug derived from leaves of the common foxglove and used as a drug that strengthens heart muscle contraction. It was first prescribed in the 18th century. Its active principles belong to a class of steroids called cardiac glycosides. Their dosage must be carefully monitored because the lethal dose may be only three times the effective dose. Digitoxin and digoxin are among the most commonly prescribed forms of digitalis.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on digitalis, visit Britannica.com.