Nifedipine is commonly prescribed to treat angina or high blood pressure. It helps slow down the rate at which calcium moves into the heart and blood vessel walls, which makes it easier for the heart to pump blood. The drug comes in both tablet and capsule form, and is typically taken one to four times a day. Possible side effects of nifedipine include headaches, flushing, and dizziness.
There are many different versions of nifedipine. Some are equivalent to each other, while others are not. Not all nifedipine medications are approved for the same uses, and the dosages may be different. Different versions of nifedipine include:
Some forms of nifedipine are long-acting, while others are not. All nifedipine tablets are extended-release, while all nifedipine capsules are immediate-release.
How Does It Work?
Nifedipine is part of a class of drugs called calcium channel blockers. It helps slow down the rate at which calcium moves into your heart and into the blood vessel walls. This, in turn, helps to relax the vessels, which allows better blood flow and makes it easier for the heart to pump blood.
There are two basic types of calcium channel blockers: dihydropyridine and non-dihydropyridine. The most important difference between the two types is that non-dihydropyridine calcium channel blockers can slow down the heart rate, while dihydropyridine calcium channel blockers do not. Nifedipine is a dihydropyridine calcium channel blocker, which means that it does not usually decrease the heart rate. In fact, short-acting nifedipine (Procardia) can actually increase the heart rate, although this is not usually a problem with long-acting nifedipine.
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Food and Drug Administration, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. Electronic orange book: approved drug products with therapeutic equivalence evaluations. FDA Web site. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/cder/ob/. Accessed March 27, 2007.
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National Library of Medicine (US). Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMED). NLM Web site. Available at: http://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/sis/htmlgen?LACT. Accessed March 27, 2007.
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