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Calcium Channel Blockers (CCBs) (cont.)

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Are there any differences among calcium channel blockers?

Although calcium channel blockers have a similar mechanism of action, they differ in their ability to affect heart muscle vs. arteries, and they differ in their ability to affect heart rate and contraction. These differences determine how they are used and their side effects.

For example:

  • verapamil (Covera-HS, Verelan PM, Calan), and diltiazem (Cardizem LA, Tiazac) reduce the strength and rate of the heart's contraction and are used in treating abnormal heart rhythms; and
  • amlodipine (Norvasc) has very little effect on the heart rate and contraction. Therefore, amlodipine is not used for treating abnormal heart rhythm, but it is preferred when heart failure is present and dilation of arteries is desired.

What are the side effects of calcium channel blockers?

Common side effects of calcium channel blockers include:

  • headache,
  • constipation,
  • rash,
  • nausea,
  • flushing,
  • edema (fluid accumulation in tissues),
  • drowsiness,
  • low blood pressure, and
  • dizziness.

Sexual dysfunction, overgrowth of gums, and liver dysfunction also have been associated with calcium channel blockers. Verapamil (Covera-HS, Verelan PM, Calan) and diltiazem (Cardizem LA, Tiazac) worsen heart failure because they reduce the ability of the heart to contract and pump blood.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/17/2017

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