Dihydropyridine calcium channel antagonists have been maligned in recent years because of concerns regarding their cardiovascular and overall safety profile. Specifically, it was widely publicised in the mid-1990s that these agents might increase the risk of myocardial infarction, gastrointestinal bleeding and cancer. Data linking these agents with increased cardiovascular risk were based on nonrandomised studies and implicated short-acting, immediate-release agents. These results were inappropriately extrapolated to longer-acting compounds, extended-release products, and to the non-dihydropyridine class. Fortunately, recent studies have vindicated the class from safety allegations. These studies are reviewed herein. Compared with both diuretics and contemporary agents, amlodipine decreases cardiovascular events to a similar or greater extent without evidence for increased coronary heart disease, gastrointestinal bleeding or cancer. Despite these data, initial concerns have had lasting repercussions, as the use of dihydropyridine calcium channel antagonists appears to lag behind what emerging data would support. Dihydropyridine calcium channel antagonists have several noteworthy attributes that merit consideration in the management of hypertension. The blood pressure response to this class of drugs is less contingent on patient factors such as age and race compared with other antihypertensive agents (e.g. ACE inhibitors). Dihydropyridine calcium channel antagonists may exert effects that protect against stroke that are independent of their blood pressure-lowering mechanism. Unlike diuretics and β-adrenoceptor anatagonists (β-blockers), dihydropyridine calcium channel antagonists are lipid neutral and do not disturb glucose homeostasis. Dihydropyridine calcium channel antagonists demonstrate a highly desirable profile when administered as part of combination therapy. Combinations of dihydropyridine calcium channel antagonists and ACE inhibitors or angiotensin receptor antagonists display additive efficacy and an enviable adverse-effect profile. Collectively, the cardiovascular benefit, metabolic neutrality and homogeneous blood pressure response illuminated in recent studies, and reviewed here, represent a reaffirmation of the benefit of long-acting dihydropyridine calcium channel antagonists and should serve to help reinforce the critical importance of these agents in the therapeutic armamentarium against cardiovascular disease.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pharmacology (medical)