To evaluate the effect of diltiazem on antipyrine disposition and metabolism, 10 healthy subjects received 1.2 gm antipyrine on two occasions, once while taking no other medications and once during long-term oral diltiazem, 120 mg three times daily. Antipyrine oral clearance was markedly reduced from (mean +/- SEM) 41.7 +/- 4.1 to 29.9 +/- 2.8 ml/min (P less than 0.01) during diltiazem treatment, resulting in prolongation of antipyrine elimination t1/2 from 12.2 +/- 1.0 to 16.7 +/- 1.3 hours (P less than 0.01), with no change in apparent volume of distribution (42.1 +/- 4.0 vs. 41.3 +/- 3.1 L; not significant). Measurement of urinary antipyrine and metabolites excreted in the urine during 24 hours after the antipyrine dose (percent of total 24-hour excretion) showed increased antipyrine (4.4% +/- 1.0% vs. 7.8% +/- 1.6%; P less than 0.01) during diltiazem treatment with no significant change in proportion of 4-hydroxyantipyrine, 3-hydroxymethylantipyrine, and norantipyrine excretion between trials. Chronic oral diltiazem in therapeutic doses markedly impairs antipyrine oxidation. Diltiazem may therefore impair the clearance of other coadministered drugs that undergo hepatic oxidation.