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niCARdipine Hydrochloride (Monograph)

Brand name: Cardene
Drug class: Dihydropyridines

Medically reviewed by on Jun 10, 2024. Written by ASHP.


Calcium-channel blocking agent; dihydropyridine derivative.

Uses for niCARdipine Hydrochloride


Oral management of hypertension (alone or in combination with other classes of antihypertensive agents).

Therapy with extended-release capsules generally is preferred because of less frequent dosing, potentially smoother BP control, and concerns raised by experience with short-acting (conventional, immediate-release) nifedipine.

Calcium-channel blockers are recommended as one of several preferred agents for the initial management of hypertension according to current evidence-based hypertension guidelines; other preferred options include ACE inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor antagonists, and thiazide diuretics. While there may be individual differences with respect to recommendations for initial drug selection and use in specific patient populations, current evidence indicates that these antihypertensive drug classes all generally produce comparable effects on overall mortality and cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, and renal outcomes.

Individualize choice of therapy; consider patient characteristics (e.g., age, ethnicity/race, comorbidities, cardiovascular risk) as well as drug-related factors (e.g., ease of administration, availability, adverse effects, cost).

A 2017 ACC/AHA multidisciplinary hypertension guideline classifies BP in adults into 4 categories: normal, elevated, stage 1 hypertension, and stage 2 hypertension. (See Table 1.)

Source: Whelton PK, Carey RM, Aronow WS et al. 2017 ACC/AHA/AAPA/ABC/ACPM/AGS/APhA/ASH/ASPC/NMA/PCNA guideline for the prevention, detection, evaluation, and management of high blood pressure in adults: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines. Hypertension. 2018;71:e13-115.

Individuals with SBP and DBP in 2 different categories (e.g., elevated SBP and normal DBP) should be designated as being in the higher BP category (i.e., elevated BP).

Table 1. ACC/AHA BP Classification in Adults 1200


SBP (mm Hg)

DBP (mm Hg)









Hypertension, Stage 1




Hypertension, Stage 2




The goal of hypertension management and prevention is to achieve and maintain optimal control of BP. However, the BP thresholds used to define hypertension, the optimum BP threshold at which to initiate antihypertensive drug therapy, and the ideal target BP values remain controversial.

The 2017 ACC/AHA hypertension guideline generally recommends a target BP goal (i.e., BP to achieve with drug therapy and/or nonpharmacologic intervention) of <130/80 mm Hg in all adults regardless of comorbidities or level of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) risk. In addition, an SBP goal of <130 mm Hg is recommended for noninstitutionalized ambulatory patients ≥65 years of age with an average SBP of ≥130 mm Hg. These BP goals are based upon clinical studies demonstrating continuing reduction of cardiovascular risk at progressively lower levels of SBP.

Other hypertension guidelines generally based target BP goals on age and comorbidities. Guidelines such as those issued by the JNC 8 expert panel generally have targeted a BP goal of <140/90 mm Hg regardless of cardiovascular risk and have used higher BP thresholds and target BPs in elderly patients compared with those recommended by the 2017 ACC/AHA hypertension guideline.

Some clinicians continue to support previous target BPs recommended by JNC 8 due to concerns about the lack of generalizability of data from some clinical trials (e.g., SPRINT study) used to support the 2017 ACC/AHA hypertension guideline and potential harms (e.g., adverse drug effects, costs of therapy) versus benefits of BP lowering in patients at lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

Consider potential benefits of hypertension management and drug cost, adverse effects, and risks associated with the use of multiple antihypertensive drugs when deciding a patient's BP treatment goal.

For decisions regarding when to initiate drug therapy (BP threshold), the 2017 ACC/AHA hypertension guideline incorporates underlying cardiovascular risk factors. ASCVD risk assessment is recommended by ACC/AHA for all adults with hypertension.

ACC/AHA currently recommend initiation of antihypertensive drug therapy in addition to lifestyle/behavioral modifications at an SBP ≥140 mm Hg or DBP ≥90 mm Hg in adults who have no history of cardiovascular disease (i.e., primary prevention) and a low ASCVD risk (10-year risk <10%).

For secondary prevention in adults with known cardiovascular disease or for primary prevention in those at higher risk for ASCVD (10-year risk ≥10%), ACC/AHA recommend initiation of antihypertensive drug therapy at an average SBP ≥130 mm Hg or an average DBP ≥80 mm Hg.

Adults with hypertension and diabetes mellitus, chronic kidney disease (CKD), or age ≥65 years are assumed to be at high risk for cardiovascular disease; ACC/AHA state that such patients should have antihypertensive drug therapy initiated at a BP ≥130/80 mm Hg. Individualize drug therapy in patients with hypertension and underlying cardiovascular or other risk factors.

In stage 1 hypertension, experts state that it is reasonable to initiate drug therapy using the stepped-care approach in which one drug is initiated and titrated and other drugs are added sequentially to achieve the target BP. Initiation of antihypertensive therapy with 2 first-line agents from different pharmacologic classes recommended in adults with stage 2 hypertension and average BP >20/10 mm Hg above BP goal.

Calcium-channel blockers may be beneficial in hypertensive patients with certain coexisting conditions (e.g., ischemic heart disease) and in geriatric patients, including those with isolated systolic hypertension.

Calcium-channel blockers may be particularly useful in black patients with hypertension; such patients generally respond better to monotherapy with calcium-channel blockers or thiazide diuretics than to other antihypertensive drug classes (e.g., ACE inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor antagonists). However, the combination of an ACE inhibitor or an angiotensin II receptor antagonist with a calcium-channel blocker or thiazide diuretic produces similar BP lowering in black patients as in other racial groups.

IV, short-term management of hypertension when oral therapy is not feasible or desirable.

IV management of hypertensive crises (e.g., emergencies) in adults.

IV, rapid reduction of BP in the management of acute severe hypertension and life-threatening symptoms in children and adolescents [off-label].


Management of chronic stable angina pectoris (alone or in combination with other antianginal agents).

niCARdipine Hydrochloride Dosage and Administration


BP Monitoring and Treatment Goals

Severe Hypertension and Hypertensive Emergency


Administer orally or by IV infusion.

Oral Administration

Conventional Capsules

Administer orally 3 times daily.

Extended-release Capsules

Administer orally twice daily.

IV Administration

Administer by slow, continuous IV infusion.

Some experts state drug may be administered by direct IV (“bolus”) injection in children and adolescents with acute severe hypertension and life-threatening symptoms.

Must dilute commercially available injection concentrate containing 2.5 mg/mL with a compatible IV infusion solution prior to administration.

Alternatively, administer as premixed solution (0.1 mg/mL in either 4.8% dextrose or 0.86% sodium chloride injection, 0.2 mg/mL in either 5% dextrose or 0.83% sodium chloride injection).

If administered via a peripheral vein, change infusion site every 12 hours to minimize risk of venous irritation.

Monitor BP closely during and after completion of IV administration; avoid rapid or excessive reduction in systolic or diastolic BP.


Injection concentrate: Dilute each 25-mg ampul containing 2.5 mg/mL with 240 mL of a compatible IV solution to provide a solution containing 0.1 mg/mL.

Standardize 4 Safety

Standardized concentrations for nicardipine have been established through Standardize 4 Safety (S4S), a national patient safety initiative to reduce medication errors, especially during transitions of care. Multidisciplinary expert panels were convened to determine recommended standard concentrations. Because recommendations from the S4S panels may differ from the manufacturer’s prescribing information, caution is advised when using concentrations that differ from labeling, particularly when using rate information from the label. For additional information on S4S (including updates that may be available), see [Web].

dosing units differ from concentration units

Table 2: Standardize 4 Safety Continuous IV Infusion Standard Concentrations for Nicardipine Hydrochloride249250

Patient Population

Concentration Standards

Dosing Units


0.1 mg/mL


0.2 mg/mL

Pediatric patients (<50 kg)

0.1 mg/mL


0.2 mg/mL

0.5 mg/mL


Available as nicardipine hydrochloride; dosage is expressed in terms of the salt.

Pediatric Patients

Acute Severe Hypertension† [off-label]
Rapid Reduction of BP† [off-label]

Direct IV (“bolus”) injection: 30 mcg/kg (up to 2 mg) per dose.

IV infusion: 0.5–4 mcg/kg per minute.


Conventional Capsules

Initially, 20 mg 3 times daily.

Adjust dosage according to patient’s peak (approximately 1–2 hours after dosing, particularly during initiation of therapy) and trough (8 hours after dosing) BP responses, but generally no more frequently than at 3-day intervals.

Usual dosage is 20–40 mg 3 times daily.

Extended-Release Capsules

Initially, 30 mg twice daily.

Adjust dosage according to BP response 2–4 hours after dosing as well as just prior to next dose.

Usual dosage range is 30–60 mg twice daily.

Switching to Extended-Release Capsules

Total daily dose of conventional tablets not a useful guide to judging effective dose of extended-release capsules. However, may administer the currently effective total daily dose of conventional capsules and adjust dosage according to BP response.

Short-term Management with IV Therapy

Initially, 5 mg/hour.

If target BP is not achieved, increase rate by 2.5 mg/hour every 15 minutes, up to 15 mg/hour.

For more rapid reduction, initially, 5 mg/hour. If the target BP is not achieved, increase rate by 2.5 mg/hour every 5 minutes, up to 15 mg/hour.

Following achievement of desired BP response, decrease rate to 3 mg/hour; adjust rate as necessary to maintain desired BP response.

Conversion From Oral to IV Therapy
Recommended Infusion Rates for Patients Previously Maintained on Oral Therapy.

Oral Dosage (as Conventional Capsules)

Equivalent IV Infusion Rates

20 mg every 8 hours

0.5 mg/hour

30 mg every 8 hours

1.2 mg/hour

40 mg every 8 hours

2.2 mg/hour

Hypertensive Emergency

5–15 mg/hour; adjust according to BP response and tolerance.

Conventional Capsules

Initially, 20 mg 3 times daily. Adjust dosage according to patient tolerance and response at ≥3-day intervals.

Usual dosage range is 20–40 mg 3 times daily.

Prescribing Limits



15 mg/hour.

Special Populations

Hepatic Impairment

Conventional capsules: Initially, 20 mg twice daily in patients with severe hepatic impairment. Individualize dosage, but maintain a twice-daily dosing schedule.

IV infusion: Consider dosage reduction. Use with caution in patients with portal hypertension.

Renal Impairment

Conventional capsules: Initially, 20 mg 3 times daily. Titrate dosage carefully.

Extended-release capsules: Initially, 30 mg twice daily. Titrate dosage carefully.

IV infusion: Titrate dosage carefully.

Geriatric Patients

Cautious dosing recommended. For conventional and extended-release capsules, initiate therapy at low end of dosage range.

Cautions for niCARdipine Hydrochloride




Increased Angina

Increased frequency, duration, and severity of angina upon initiation or dosage increase of calcium channel blockers.

Heart Failure

Use with caution in patients with heart failure or substantial left ventricular dysfunction, especially in those receiving concomitant β-adrenergic blocking agents.

β-Blocker Withdrawal

Taper dosage of β-adrenergic blocking agent, preferably over 8–10 days before initiation of nicardipine. Nicardipine is not a β-adrenergic blocking agent and offers no protection against abrupt withdrawal of these agents.

General Precautions


Possible symptomatic hypotension from decreased peripheral resistance. Use with caution in patients with acute cerebral infarction or hemorrhage; avoid systemic hypotension in these patients.

Monitor BP carefully, especially during initiation of therapy or upward adjustment of dosage.


Limited clinical experience in patients with hypertension associated with pheochromocytoma. Use with caution.

Specific Populations


Category C.


Distributed into milk in high concentrations in rats. Use not recommended.

Pediatric Use

Safety and efficacy not established in children <18 years of age.

Some experts recommend use in children and adolescents [off-label] for acute severe hypertension with life-threatening symptoms.

Use with caution for rapid reduction of BP in children and adolescents [off-label] ; may cause reflex tachycardia.

Geriatric Use

Insufficient experience in patients ≥65 years of age to determine whether geriatric patients respond differently than younger adults. Select dosage with caution; initiate dosage at lower end of recommended range.

Hepatic Impairment

Use with caution in patients with hepatic impairment or reduced hepatic blood flow; dosage adjustments recommended. (See Hepatic Impairment under Dosage and Administration.)

Use of extended-release capsules has not been studied in patients with severe hepatic impairment.

Renal Impairment

Use with caution; careful dosage titration recommended. (See Renal Impairment under Dosage and Administration.)

Common Adverse Effects

With oral therapy, pedal edema, dizziness, headache, asthenia, flushing, increased angina, vasodilation, palpitation.

With IV therapy, headache, hypotension, nausea/vomiting, tachycardia.

Drug Interactions

Specific Drugs




Antacids (magnesium hydroxide)

Pharmacokinetic interaction unlikely

β-Adrenergic blockers (e.g., propranolol)

Pharmacokinetic interaction (e.g., effect on plasma protein binding of nicardipine) unlikely


Increased plasma nicardipine concentrations

Monitor carefully


Increased plasma cyclosporine concentrations

Monitor plasma cyclosporine concentrations closely and adjust dosage accordingly


Potential for increased plasma digoxin concentrations

Monitor serum digoxin concentrations


No effect on plasma protein binding of nicardipine


Potential for severe hypotension with concomitant use of a β-adrenergic blocker and a calcium channel blocker

Increase circulating fluid volume if hypotension occurs


No effect on plasma protein binding of nicardipine


No effect on plasma protein binding of nicardipine


No effect on plasma protein binding of nicardipine


No effect on plasma protein binding of nicardipine

niCARdipine Hydrochloride Pharmacokinetics



Completely absorbed from the GI tract following oral administration; peak plasma concentrations of conventional and extended-release capsules are attained within 0.5–2 and 1–4 hours, respectively.

Minimum plasma levels of equivalent doses of conventional and extended-release capsules are similar.

Bioavailability of conventional capsules is about 35%; extended-release capsules have a slightly lower bioavailability, except at the highest doses.


High-fat meal decreases bioavailability of conventional and extended-release capsules.

Special Populations

In patients with severe hepatic impairment, peak plasma concentrations and AUC increased by 1.8 and 4-fold, respectively, and terminal half-life prolonged to 19 hours.

In patients with moderate renal impairment, peak plasma concentrations and AUC increased by 2- to 3-fold following administration of conventional or extended-release capsules.



Distributed into milk in rats.

Plasma Protein Binding




Extensively metabolized in the liver.

Elimination Route

Excreted in urine (49–60%) and feces (35–43%).


Multi-phasic; terminal elimination half-life is 8.6 and 14.4 hours following oral and IV administration, respectively.




Conventional Capsules and Extended-release Capsules

Light resistant containers at 15–30°C.


Injection Concentrate

20–25°C; protect from light. Avoid exposure to increased temperatures.

Premixed Injection for Infusion

20–25°C; protect from light, freezing, and excessive heat.


Advice to Patients

Additional Information

The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, Inc. represents that the information provided in the accompanying monograph was formulated with a reasonable standard of care, and in conformity with professional standards in the field. Readers are advised that decisions regarding use of drugs are complex medical decisions requiring the independent, informed decision of an appropriate health care professional, and that the information contained in the monograph is provided for informational purposes only. The manufacturer’s labeling should be consulted for more detailed information. The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, Inc. does not endorse or recommend the use of any drug. The information contained in the monograph is not a substitute for medical care.


Excipients in commercially available drug preparations may have clinically important effects in some individuals; consult specific product labeling for details.

Please refer to the ASHP Drug Shortages Resource Center for information on shortages of one or more of these preparations.

* available from one or more manufacturer, distributor, and/or repackager by generic (nonproprietary) name

niCARdipine Hydrochloride


Dosage Forms


Brand Names




20 mg*

Nicardipine Hydrochloride Capsules

30 mg*

Nicardipine Hydrochloride Capsules

Capsules, extended-release

30 mg

Cardene SR


60 mg

Cardene SR



For injection, concentrate, for IV infusion

2.5 mg/mL*

Cardene I.V.


Nicardipine Hydrochloride Injection

niCARdipine Hydrochloride in Dextrose


Dosage Forms


Brand Names



Injection, for IV infusion

0.1 mg/mL (20 mg) in 4.8% Dextrose

Cardene I.V.


0.2 mg/mL (40 mg) in 5% Dextrose

Cardene I.V.


niCARdipine Hydrochloride in Sodium Chloride


Dosage Forms


Brand Names



Injection, for IV infusion

0.1 mg/mL (20 mg) in 0.86% Sodium Chloride

Cardene I.V.


0.2 mg/mL (40 mg) in 0.83% Sodium Chloride

Cardene I.V.


AHFS DI Essentials™. © Copyright 2024, Selected Revisions June 10, 2024. American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, Inc., 4500 East-West Highway, Suite 900, Bethesda, Maryland 20814.

† Off-label: Use is not currently included in the labeling approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.

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