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2.6.2 Calcium-channel blockers (CCBs)

CCBs are divided into two subtypes which have important pharmacological differences:

  1. rate-limiting non-dihydropyridine CCBs – verapamil and diltiazem – which are negatively inotropic and should be avoided in heart failure or reduced left ventricular function
  2. dihydropyridine CCBs – amlodipine, felodipine, lacidipine, lercanidipine, nicardipine, nifedipine and nimodipine


1st choice Amlodipine tablets 5mg, 10mg
2nd choiceLercanidipine tablets 10mg, 20mg


1st choice calcium channel blocker
(patient taking a
Amlodipine tablets 5mg, 10mg
1st choice calcium channel blocker
(in patients unable
to tolerate a beta-blocker)

Diltiazem m/r tablets 60mg, 90mg, 120mg; m/r capsules 90mg, 120mg, 180mg, 200mg, 240mg, 300mg, 360mg

Prescribe by brand name

Supraventricular arrhythmias – to be used under secondary care guidance only

1st choice

Verapamil m/r tablets 120mg, 240mg

Prescribe by brand name*

*patients switched between brands due to medicines shortages may require closer monitoring of BP in the initial stages

Prescribing Notes

  • The most common problem with amlodipine is ankle oedema, which may necessitate stopping as the oedema responds poorly to leg elevation or diuretics.
  • A trial of lercandipine may be reasonable if a patient develops ankle oedema with amlodipine.
  • Felodipine m/r is still a reasonable choice and there is no need to switch patients already stable on felodipine m/r
  • The treatment of patients currently receiving concomitant simvastatin 40 mg and amlodipine or diltiazem should be reviewed at their next routine appointment. Switch to atorvastatin 20mg [preferred] (see section 2.12) or reduce simvastatin to 20 mg per day. See MHRA and 2.12 lipid regulating drugs.
  • The rate limiting CCBs diltiazem or verapamil may be considered for angina or following myocardial infarction if a beta-blocker cannot be used.
  • Diltiazem and verapamil have negative inotropic effects and should be avoided in patients with LV dysfunction or heart failure.
  • A long-acting formulation should be used if diltiazem is prescribed. Different versions of modified-release preparations may not have the same clinical effect. To avoid confusion between these different formulations of diltiazem, prescribers must specify the brand to be dispensed.
  • Diltiazem should only be used with secondary care guidance when given with beta-blockers due to risk of bradycardia.
  • Verapamil may be used to treat supraventricular arrhythmias or, occasionally, atrial fibrillation (see section 2.3.2).
  • Verapamil should not be used with beta-blockers as concomitant use can result in extreme bradycardia. It must be avoided in patients with heart block or heart failure.
  • Short-acting dihydropyridines (e.g. standard release nifedipine) may be harmful and these are no longer recommended for angina or hypertension.