The calcium channel blockers (calcium antagonists) have vasodilatory and cardiodepressant effects. These pharmacological properties explain, to a large extent, the antihypertensive, antianginal, and antiarrhythmic effects of these agents. Pharmacological differences between members of this class, e.g. differences in vascular selectivity, are well documented and can be exploited clinically.
The efficacy of calcium channel blockers in the prevention of cardiovascular events may depend on factors other than their vasodilatory and cardiodepressive effects. Much interest, for example, has been shown in their possible antiatherosclerotic effects. It is, however, at present not possible to ascertain how important these and other ancillary effects (such as plaque stabilisation) are for the putative cardioprotective effects of calcium channel blockers. There are, moreover, few in vitro or in vivo (animal or clinical) studies allowing valid comparison of the different calcium channel blockers with regard to these ancillary properties.
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