Update on calcium-channel blocking agents

R. L. Talbert, H. I. Bussey

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


The pharmacokinetics, clinical efficacy, and adverse effects of three calcium-channel blocking agents - verapamil, nifedipine, and diltiazem - are reviewed. Verapamil, nifedipine, and diltiazem are absorbed well after oral dosing, but absolute bioavailability of each is reduced substantially by a first-pass effect. Each drug is metabolized extensively (verapamil and diltiazem to moderately active metabolites) by the liver. A substantial percentage of each drug is bound to plasma proteins, but the binding is of clinical importance only for nifedipine (92-98% protein bound). Intravenous verapamil has become the agent of first choice for treatment of acute paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT); use of chronic oral verapamil therapy for prophylaxis remains controversial. Verapamil and diltiazem have been evaluated with mixed results for atrial flutter and fibrillation. For treatment of myocardial ischemia, calcium-channel blockers may be of some value (possibly in combination with nitrates or β blockers). All three agents have been studied in patients with exertional angina with good results. Calcium-channel blockers appear to be equal with nitrates for treatment of variant angina. Patients with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy have been treated with verapamil and nifedipine with promising results. Nifedipine has been effective for treatment of essential hypertension. Adverse effects of calcium-channel blockers have been relatively minor or infrequent. Diltiazem overall has the best side-effect profile, with adverse effects causing discontinuation of therapy in about 2-10% of patients; verapamil is intermediate (8-10%) and nifedipine the worst (17%) in this respect. The most common side effects generally are fatigue, headache, dizziness, skin rash, and peripheral edema. While they generally should be reserved for patients in whom more conventional therapy has failed (except those with PSVT), calcium-channel blockers appear to have a valid role as reverse agents for exertional and variant angina, cardiomyopathy, and hypertension.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)403-416
Number of pages14
JournalClinical pharmacy
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jan 1 1983

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmaceutical Science


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