Twelve healthy subjects received a single oral dose of theophylline, 5 mg/kg alone, and after 7 days of oral verapamil, 120 mg every 8 hours, diltiazem, 90 mg every 8 hours, and nifedipine, 20 mg every 8 hours, in randomized crossover fashion. Mean theophylline oral clearance decreased 18% and 12% after verapamil and diltiazem, respectively (p less than 0.05). No significant change in theophylline oral clearance was observed after nifedipine. Increases in mean theophylline half-life were observed after verapamil (10.8 +/- 3.2 hours) and diltiazem (9.9 +/- 2.4 hours) (p less than 0.05) but not after nifedipine (8.6 +/- 2.4 hours) when compared with control (8.6 +/- 1.9 hours). Apparent volume of distribution was unchanged. Urinary excretion data showed that the relative formation rate constants of 3-methylxanthine and 1,3-dimethyluric acid were decreased during verapamil and diltiazem (p less than 0.05) but not during nifedipine. No change in 1-methyluric acid excretion was observed. Increases in urinary elimination of unchanged theophylline were observed after verapamil, diltiazem, and nifedipine. The modest reduction in theophylline clearance observed after verapamil and diltiazem is not likely to produce clinically significant increases in theophylline concentrations in most patients.