March 30, 2017
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The therapeutic effects of diltiazem hydrochloride are believed to be related to its ability to inhibit the cellular influx of calcium ions during membrane depolarization of cardiac and vascular smooth muscle.

Mechanisms Of Action


Diltiazem produces its antihypertensive effect primarily by relaxation of vascular smooth muscle and the resultant decrease in peripheral vascular resistance. The magnitude of blood pressure reduction is related to the degree of hypertension: thus hypertensive individuals experience an antihypertensive effect, whereas there is only a modest fall in blood pressure in normotensives.


Diltiazem HCl has been shown to produce increases in exercise tolerance, probably due to its ability to reduce myocardial oxygen demand. This is accomplished via reductions in heart rate and systemic blood pressure at submaximal and maximal work loads.

Diltiazem has been shown to be a potent dilator of coronary arteries, both epicardial and subendocardial. Spontaneous and ergonovine-induced coronary artery spasms are inhibited by diltiazem.

In animal models, diltiazem interferes with the slow inward (depolarizing) current in excitable tissue. It causes excitation-contraction uncoupling in various myocardial tissues without changes in the configuration of the action potential. Diltiazem produces relaxation of the coronary vascular smooth muscle and dilation of both large and small coronary vascular smooth muscle and dilation of both large and small coronary arteries at drug levels which cause little or no negative inotropic effect. The resultant increases in coronary blood flow (epicardial and subendocardial) occur in ischemic and nonischemic models and are accompanied by dose-dependent decreases in systemic blood pressure and decreases in peripheral resistance.

Hemodynamic And Electrophysiologic Effects

Like other calcium channel antagonists, diltiazem decreases sinoatrial and atrioventricular conduction in isolated tissues and has a negative inotropic effect in isolated preparations. In the intact animal, prolongation of the AH interval can be seen at higher doses.

In man, diltiazem prevents spontaneous and ergonovine-provoked coronary artery spasm. It causes a decrease in peripheral vascular resistance and a modest fall in blood pressure in normotensive individuals and, in exercise tolerance studies in patients with ischemic heart disease, reduces the heart rate-blood pressure product for any given work load. Studies to date, primarily in patients with good ventricular function, have not revealed evidence of a negative inotropic effect; cardiac output, ejection fraction, and left ventricular end-diastolic pressure have not been affected. Such data have no predictive value with respect to effects in patients with poor ventricular function, and increased heart failure has been reported in patients with preexisting impairment of ventricular function. There are as yet few data on the interaction of diltiazem and beta-blockers in patients with poor ventricular function. Resting heart rate is usually slightly reduced by diltiazem.

Tiazac produces antihypertensive effects both in the supine and standing positions. Postural hypotension is infrequently noted upon suddenly assuming an upright position. No reflex tachycardia is associated with the chronic antihypertensive effects.

Diltiazem hydrochloride decreases vascular resistance, increases cardiac output (by increasing stroke volume), and produces a slight decrease or no change in heart rate. During dynamic exercise, increases in diastolic pressure are inhibited while maximum achievable systolic pressure is usually reduced. Chronic therapy with diltiazem hydrochloride produces no change or an increase in plasma catecholamines. No increased activity of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone axis has been observed. Diltiazem hydrochloride reduces the renal and peripheral effects of angiotensin II. Hypertensive animal models respond to diltiazem with reductions in blood pressure and increased urinary output and natriuresis without a change in urinary sodium/potassium ratio. In man, transient natriuresis and kaliuresis have been reported, but only in high intravenous doses of 0.5 mg/kg of body weight.

Diltiazem-associated prolongation of the AH interval is not more pronounced in patients with first degree heart block. In patients with sick sinus syndrome, diltiazem significantly prolongs sinus cycle length (up to 50% in some cases). Intravenous diltiazem in doses of 20 mg prolongs AH conduction time and AV node functional and effective refractory periods by approximately 20%.

In two short term, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies in 256 hypertensive patients with doses up to 540 mg/day, Tiazac showed a clinically unimportant but statistically significant, dose-related increase in PR interval (0.008 seconds). There were no instances of greater than first-degree AV block in any of the clinical trials (see WARNINGS).



In short term, double blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials, Tiazac demonstrated a dose-related antihypertensive response among patients with mild to moderate hypertension. In one parallel-group study of 198 patients Tiazac was given for four weeks. The changes in diastolic blood pressure measured at trough (24 hours after the dose) for placebo, 90 mg, 180 mg, 360 mg and 540 mg were -5.4, -6.3, -6.2, -8.2, and -11.8 mm Hg, respectively. Supine diastolic blood pressure as well as standing diastolic and systolic blood pressures also showed statistically significant linear dose response effects.

In another clinical trial that followed a dose-escalation design, Tiazac also reduced blood pressure in a linear dose-related manner. Supine diastolic blood pressure measured following two-week intervals of treatment was reduced by -3.7 mm Hg with 120 mg/day versus -2.0 mm Hg with placebo, by -7.6 mm Hg after escalation to 240 mg/day versus -2.3 mm Hg with placebo, by -8.1 mm Hg after escalation to 360 mg/day versus -0.9 mm Hg with placebo, and by -10.8 mm Hg after escalation to 480/540 mg/day versus -2.2 mm Hg with placebo.


In a double-blind parallel group placebo-controlled trial (approximately 50 patients/group, in patients with chronic stable angina), Tiazac at doses of 120 to 540 mg/day increased exercise tolerance time. At trough, 24 hours after dosing, exercise tolerance times using a Bruce exercise protocol, increased by 14, 26, 41, 33 and 32 seconds over baseline for placebo and the 120 mg, 240 mg, 360 mg, and 540 mg treated patient groups, respectively. At peak, 8 hours after dosing, exercise tolerance times relative to baseline were statistically significantly increased by 13, 38, 64, 55 and 42 seconds for placebo and 120 mg, 240 mg, 360 mg, and 540 mg Tiazac treated patients, respectively. Compared to baseline, Tiazac treated patients experienced statistically significant reductions in anginal attacks and decreased nitroglycerin requirements when compared to placebo treated patients.

Pharmacokinetics And Metabolism

Diltiazem is well absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract but undergoes substantial hepatic first-pass effect. The absolute bioavailability of an oral dose of an immediate- release formulation (compared to intravenous administration) is approximately 40%. Only 2% to 4% of unchanged diltiazem appears in the urine. The plasma elimination half-life of diltiazem is approximately 3.0 to 4.5 h. Drugs which induce or inhibit hepatic microsomal enzymes may alter diltiazem disposition. Therapeutic blood levels of diltiazem appear to be in the range of 40 to 200 ng/mL. There is a departure from linearity when dose strengths are increased; the half-life is slightly increased with dose.

The two primary metabolites of diltiazem are desacetyldiltiazem and desmethyldiltiazem. The desacetyl metabolite is approximately 25% to 50% as potent a coronary vasodilator as diltiazem and is present in plasma at concentrations of 10% to 20% of parent diltiazem. However, recent studies employing sensitive and specific analytical methods have confirmed the existence of several sequential metabolic pathways of diltiazem. As many as nine diltiazem metabolites have been identified in the urine of humans. Total radioactivity measurements following single intravenous dose administration in healthy volunteers suggest the presence of other unidentified metabolites. These metabolites are more slowly excreted (with a half-life of total radioactivity of approximately 20 hours), and attain concentrations in excess of diltiazem.

In vitro binding studies show diltiazem HCl is 70% to 80% bound to plasma proteins. Competitive in vitro ligand binding studies have also shown diltiazem HCl binding is not altered by therapeutic concentrations of digoxin, hydrochlorothiazide, phenylbutazone, propranolol, salicylic acid, or warfarin. A study that compared patients with normal hepatic function to patients with cirrhosis who received immediate-release diltiazem found an increase in diltiazem elimination half-life and a 69% increase in bioavailability in the hepatically impaired patients. Patients with severely impaired renal function (creatinine clearance < 50 mL/min) who received immediate-release diltiazem had modestly increased diltiazem concentrations compared to patients with normal renal function.

Tiazac Capsules

When compared to a regimen of immediate-release tablets at steady-state, approximately 93% of drug is absorbed from the Tiazac formulation. When Tiazac was coadministered with a high fat content breakfast, the extent of diltiazem absorption was not affected; Tmax, however, occurred slightly earlier. The apparent elimination half-life after single or multiple dosing is 4 to 9.5 hours (mean 6.5 hours).

Tiazac demonstrates non-linear pharmacokinetics. As the daily dose of Tiazac capsules is increased from 120 to 540 mg, there was a more than proportional increase in diltiazem plasma concentrations as evidenced by an increase of AUC, Cmax and Cmin of 6.8, 6 and 8.6 times, respectively, for a 4.5 times increase in dose.

Last reviewed on RxList: 11/29/2016
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.

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