Pharmacokinetics of Calcium Antagonists Under Development

Darrell R. Abernethy, Janice B. Schwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Calcium antagonist drugs under clinical development are of the Type I (verapamil, diltiazem-like) and Type II (nifedipine-like) classes: Tiapamil, the only Type I drug currently available, is a high clearance, widely distributed drug which undergoes extensive presystemic elimination. Pharmacokinetically it is quite similar to verapamil; however, it does have increased biliary excretion and decreased binding to plasma proteins. Eight Type II (dihydropyridine) drugs are reviewed. Seven of these drugs (felodipine, isradipine, nicardipine, nilvadipine, nimodipine, nisoldipine and nitrendipine) are pharmacokinetically similar to nifedipine, with high clearance, extensive distribution, and significant presystemic elimination. Amlodipine has lower clearance, even greater peripheral distribution, and greatly decreased presystemic elimination. Three of the 8 dihydropyridines have been reported to have plasma protein binding greater than 90%. Unlike nifedipine, each dihydropyridine drug under development has an asymmetric centre; therefore each in fact is a racemic mixture. Human pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic data have not been reported for any of the racemates. Each of the drugs has been studied in patients with hepatic and renal disease. Predictably, patients with severe hepatic disease have decreased presystemic clearance and, in some cases decreased clearance after intravenous administration of the dihydropyridines, although renal failure has little influence on their pharmacokinetics. Unfortunately, disease-drug interaction studies of this class of drugs do not generally report plasma protein binding. The effect of age on the disposition of 2 of the dihydropyridines has been reported; however, only for nicardipine can a conclusion be drawn, namely that volume of distribution may increase with age and clearance may remain unchanged. A variety of potential drug-drug interactions have been evaluated, most commonly the effect of these drugs on cardiac glycoside disposition and effect, and the effect of cimetidine on the disposition of dihydropyridines. Tiapamil, like verapamil, impairs digoxin clearance significantly. Among the dihydropyridines, although minor pharmacokinetic effects have in some cases been reported, the magnitude of the interactions suggest they have limited clinical importance. From drugs currently under development, it is clear that a large number of calcium antagonists will soon be introduced into clinical use. Only 1 of the newer drugs, amlodipine, has significant pharmacokinetic differences from the agents currently in use, although possible pharmacodynamic differences among the drugs have been suggested. Further study will be necessary to determine if the therapeutic spectrum of calcium antagonist drugs will be significantly broadened with the introduction of these developmental agents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalClinical Pharmacokinetics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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