Digifab (Digoxin-specific antibody)

How does it work?

Digifab infusion contains digoxin-specific antibody fragments. It is used to treat digoxin toxicity or digoxin overdose, in cases where simply discontinuing digoxin treatment may not reduce the amount of digoxin in the blood quickly enough.

Digoxin is a form of digitalis, a drug that is extracted from the leaves of the foxglove plant. It is used to treat irregular heartbeats and heart failure. The blood level of digoxin that is needed for it to be effective is quite close to the blood level that can cause unwanted effects. If the amount of digoxin in the blood goes too high this can cause symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, visual disturbances, heart palpitations or confusion.

Toxicity can usually be resolved by reducing the dose of digoxin or stopping treatment completely. However, very serious digoxin toxicity (including that caused by overdose) can cause life-threatening irregular heartbeats that may not respond to treatment. This medicine is used to reverse digoxin toxicity when other measures are not sufficient.

Digifab works by binding to the free digoxin in the blood and making it inactive. This reduces the amount of digoxin in the blood.

What is it used for?

  • Reversing life-threatening digoxin toxicity when other measures including stopping digoxin are not sufficient.

How is this treatment given?

  • Digifab infusion is given by a drip into a vein (intravenous infusion) which will last for about 30 minutes. A response to this medicine is usually seen after 30 minutes.

Warning!

  • During treatment with this medicine you will have regular blood tests to monitor your potassium levels, you will also have your blood pressure monitored and your heartbeat monitored with an ECG during treatment and for 24 hours after.

Use with caution in

  • People allergic to papaya, pineapple, latex, dust mites or sheep proteins.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

Certain medicines should not be used during pregnancy or breastfeeding. However, other medicines may be safely used in pregnancy or breastfeeding providing the benefits to the mother outweigh the risks to the unborn baby. Always inform your doctor if you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, before using any medicine.

  • The safety of this medicine during pregnancy has not been established. It should only be used to treat pregnant women if the potential benefits outweigh any possible risks to the unborn child. Seek medical advice from your doctor.
  • It is not known if this medicine passes into breast milk. Mothers who need treatment with this medicine should not breastfeed during treatment. Seek further medical advice from your doctor.

Side effects

Medicines and their possible side effects can affect individual people in different ways. The following are some of the side effects that are known to be associated with this medicine. Just because a side effect is stated here, it does not mean that all people using this medicine will experience that or any side effect.

Common (affect between 1 in 10 and 1 in 100 people)

  • Worsening of heart failure, with fluid retention causing swelling.
  • Chest pain.
  • Headache.
  • Disturbances of the gut such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, constipation and bloating.
  • Changes in the potassium levels in the blood.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Lightheadness when standing up.
  • Confusion.
  • Flu-like symptoms.
  • Fatigue.
  • Reaction at the site of infusion, such as inflammation of the vein.
  • Kidney problems.

The side effects listed above may not include all of the side effects reported by the medicine's manufacturer.

For more information about any other possible risks associated with this medicine, please read the information provided with the medicine or consult your doctor or pharmacist.

How can this medicine affect other medicines?

This medicine is not known to affect other medicines.

Other medicines containing the same active ingredient

There are currently no other medicines available in the UK that contain digoxin-specific antibody fragments. The Digibind brand of this medicine is no longer available.