Drug Treatments: Calcium Channel Blockers  

Calcium channel blockers have an immediate effect on reducing blood pressure. They work by relaxing and expanding the blood vessels, allowing blood to pass through more easily. However, studies report that they are inferior to other high blood pressure medications in preventing heart attacks, stroke, or kidney complications. They are often more expensive than diuretics or beta-blockers. Some experts now believe they should be used only if other medications do not work.

No one should ever stop taking these drugs abruptly, because such action could dangerously increase the risk of high blood pressure.

These drugs include:

  • diltiazem (Cardizem, Dilacor)
  • amlodipine (Norvasc)
  • verapamil (Calan, Isoptin, Verelan)
  • nisoldipine (Sular)
  • nicardipine (Cardene)
  • nifedipine (Adalat, Procardia)
  • isradipine (DynaCirc)
  • lercanidipine (Zanidip)
  • felodipine (Plendil)
  • nitredipine (Cardif, Nitrepin)

Side effects

Side effects vary among different preparations and may include:

  • Fluid accumulation in the feet
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Impotence
  • Gingivitis
  • Flushing
  • Allergic symptoms

Newer drugs, such as lercanidipine, may reduce or avoid many of these side effects.

Grapefruit and Seville oranges (used in some marmalades) may have a harmful interaction with calcium channel blockers, particularly in the elderly.


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Review Date: June 3, 2003

Reviewed By: Jacqueline A. Hart, M.D., Department of Internal Medicine, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Harvard University and Senior Medical Editor, A.D.A.M., Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.


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