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Bottle of digoxin tablets, 'Tabloid' brand, London, England, 1884-1924

Digoxin is a drug widely used to treat heart failure and irregular heart beats. It was important to take the correct dosage as the side effects – confusion, diarrhoea and irregular heart beats – can be dangerous. If the pumping action of the heart is severely altered, this affects the circulation of the blood and the supply of oxygen to the rest of the body, which can have disastrous effects. The drug is administered by tablet or injection. Digoxin is made from an extract of foxgloves, a flowering plant. Foxgloves had long been used by herbalists, pharmacists and apothecaries to treat irregular heart beats and were in mainstream use from the 1600s onwards. ‘Tabloid’ was a brand name patented in 1884 by Burroughs, Wellcome & Co, who made this drug.

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Glossary: bottle

Vessels having a neck and mouth considerably narrower than the body, used for packaging and containing liquid and dry preparations

Glossary: digoxin

A drug extracted from the digitalis plants, specifically the Foxglove, used to treat heart failure. It heightens heart muscle contraction and decreases the heart rate. The line between therapeutic and toxic dose is fine.