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The calcium antagonist verapamil (a mixture of D- and L-racemers) is a potent modulator of the multi-drug resistance phenotype in vitro at a concentration of 6 microM. Clinical studies have shown dose-limiting toxicity of hypotension and heart block when plasma levels approach the concentrations active in vitro. Previous data indicate that the D-isomer is less cardioactive than the L-isomer but they appear to be equipotent in reversing drug resistance in vitro. In an attempt to increase plasma verapamil concentrations, we have treated ten patients (total of 27 courses) with oral D-verapamil (DVPM), 150-300 mg 6 h, and doxorubicin i.v. 70 mg m2 q 3 weeks. Hypotension (supine systolic BP less than 100 mmHg or a fall in systolic BP of greater than 30 mmHg) occurred in 5/6 patients at 1200 mg day DVPM, in 1/5 at 800 mg day, and in 1/5 at 600 mg day. PQ prolongation (greater than 0.23 s) was demonstrated in 2/5 patients at 800 mg day DVPM. Plasma levels of DVPM and its active metabolite norverapamil were measured and, combining these, levels of 3-4 microM were achieved at 1200 mg day DVPM; however this dose is likely to lead to unacceptable toxicity in the outpatient setting. Using an oral outpatient schedule of administration, an appropriate dose of DVPM is 800 mg day. This provides a combined plasma level (for VPM and DVPM) of 2-3 microM. If DVPM is to prove useful as a resistance modulator, it may require to be administered intravenously with careful inpatient monitoring and support.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Cancer

Publication Date





1168 - 1171


ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 1, Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols, Doxorubicin, Drug Evaluation, Drug Resistance, Female, Humans, Male, Membrane Glycoproteins, Middle Aged, Verapamil