The present study was designed to compare the pharmacokinetic handling of a single oral dose of nicardipine in normal subjects and in patients with hepatic cirrhosis and to compare the sensitivity of the two groups to its hypotensive effect. Nicardipine plasma concentrations were substantially higher in the subjects with hepatic cirrhosis with impaired antipyrine clearance, as shown by a significantly higher average Cmax and AUC. The terminal elimination half-life in this group varied from 0.8 to 60.2 hours (median, 11.7 hours), compared with 0.6 to 4.1 hours (median, 1.4 hours) in the group of eight subjects with normal liver function. In the cirrhotic patients with impaired antipyrine clearance, the AUC of the pyridine metabolite averaged 10% of that of the parent drug, whereas in normal subjects the ratio averaged 48%. This finding suggests less conversion of nicardipine to this metabolite in subjects with impaired hepatic function. Peak blood pressure decreases were greater in the cirrhotic group, which was in keeping with the higher plasma levels in these subjects.