Nifedipine is a calcium channel blocker that works by relaxing the muscles of the heart and blood vessels.1 The drug is derived from dihydropyridine and decreases the contractile activity of smooth muscles in the arteries, inhibiting the influx of calcium ions through calcium channels. This causes dilation of both the coronary and systemic arteries, increasing oxygen delivery to myocardial tissue, and decreasing systemic blood pressure. Nifedipine is primarily used to treat hypertension and chronic stable angina.
For more information, including a MSDS sheet, please see PNA’sNifedipine page.
Angina: Nifedipine is used to treat chronic stable angina, also known as effort-associated angina, particularly in patients who are symptomatic despite treatment with beta blockers and/or organic nitrates, or in patients who cannot tolerate those treatments. This drug may be administered alone or in conjunction with a beta blocker. Nifedipine may also be prescribed for patients with vasospastic angina.2
Hypertension: Nifedipine, when formulated as a long-acting agent, is indicated in treating both left ventricular hypertrophy and isolated systolic hypertension.3
Other Uses: Nifedipine may also be used to treat Raynaud’s phenomenon (excessive reduction in blood flow due to cold temperatures or emotional stress), reduce contractions during premature labor, or decrease high blood pressure during pregnancy.
Common side effects in patients taking nifedipine include:
Flushing, and flushing sensation
Tremors and muscle cramps
Coughs and wheezing
Rapid weight gain
Patients who suffer from severity of these common side effects should contact their pharmacist or physician right away. Patients who experience worsening angina, severe constipation, severe stomach pain or heartburn or cramps, bloody cough, fainting, shortness of breath, swelling in the face, hands or feet, fast, irregular, or pounding heartbeats, numbness or tingling, jaundice, and tightness or pain in the chest should inform their physician immediately.
Patients who are allergic to nifedipine should not take this drug. Patients who have kidney, liver, or heart problems, low blood pressure, chest pain, or who are pregnant or breastfeeding should inform their physician before taking this medication.
This medication may interact with beta blockers, blood thinners, cimetidine, digoxin, fentanyl, or quinidine. The effects of this drug during pregnancy and breastfeeding not well known.5
Latest News and Research
Nifedipine is a drug whose uses are still being discovered. Although the drug has not been approved as a tocolytic agent, off label the drug has shown to be effective in reducing contractions during pregnancy and in pre-term labor. In fact, due to global need for such a drug, and because of its utility in treating hypertension, nifedipine is on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) List of Essential Medicines.6 This list, which is updated every two years, includes drugs that the WHO defines to “satisfy the health care needs of the majority of the population; they should therefore be available at all times in adequate amounts and in appropriate dosage forms, at a price the community can afford.”
Nifedipine may also be effective in treating fibrotic lung disease, wherein scar tissue in the lungs grows thick and stiff, impeding a patient’s ability to breathe. Nifedipine appears to interrupt calcium channel signaling, thereby halting tissue impairment resulting from pulmonary fibrosis.7 Nifedipine may also aid in changing the way cholesterol expands from liquid to crystal form, thereby preventing fibrous membranes in cardiac tissue from being damaged.8