Nicardipine is an antagonist of calcium influx through the slow channel of the cell membrane and has been shown to be an effective and relatively well-tolerated treatment for stable effort angina and rest angina due to coronary artery spasm, and mild to moderate hypertension. Although its exact mechanism of action in these disease states has not been precisely defined, the potent coronary and peripheral arterial dilator properties of nicardipine, with concomitant improvements in oxygen supply/demand and reductions in systemic vascular resistance, are of major importance. Clinical studies have shown that nicardipine appears to be effective in the treatment of chronic stable exercise-induced angina pectoris and possibly in angina at rest due to coronary artery spasm. In the treatment of stable angina, nicardipine has proved to be equally as effective as nifedipine. However, haemodynamic and clinical studies indicate that nicardipine may have a further advantage of not depressing cardiac conduction or left ventricular function, even in patients with compromised cardiac pumping ability. Nicardipine also appears to be useful as initial monotherapy or in combination with other antihypertensive drugs when used in the treatment of mild to moderate hypertension, and may have some advantages over other vasodilators in this regard in that it may not be as frequently associated with fluid retention or weight gain as other similar drugs. In the treatment of hypertension nicardipine has been shown to be as effective as drugs such as hydrochlorothiazide, cyclopenthiazide, propranolol and verapamil in short term studies although confirmation of its long term usefulness in well-designed clinical trials is still required. Similarly, although the use of nicardipine in other disorders such as congestive heart failure and cerebrovascular disease has provided encouraging preliminary results, more studies are needed to clarify its place in their treatment. Side effects appear to be dose related and more frequent within the first few weeks of therapy. Most of these effects are minor and transient in nature and include headache, flushing and peripheral oedema. Thus, there is no doubt that nicardipine provides a suitable alternative to other drugs available for the treatment of angina and hypertension. However, further well-designed comparative clinical trials are needed to clarify its relative place in the long term management of these disorders.