The pharmacokinetics of oral procainamide (1 g) were investigated in six healthy subjects during chronic dosing with ranitidine 150 mg twice daily, and in three of the subjects when ranitidine 750 mg was administered over 12 h. The procainamide area under the plasma concentration-time curve was significantly (PQ0.02) increased by ranitidine (27.761.5 vs 31.561.8 mg l-1 h) with a significant reduction in renal clearance (379632 vs 309630 ml/min, PQ0.02). There was no change in half-life. The N-acetylprocainamide (NAPA) area under the plasma concentration-time curve was also significantly (PQ0.02) elevated by ranitidine (8.661.2 vs 9.761.3 mg 1-1 h) due to a reduction in renal clearance from 187630 to 168628 ml/min. The larger dose of ranitidine produced greater alterations in the procainamide and NAPA pharmacokinetics. Ranitidine reduced the absorption of procainamide by 10% and by 24% at the higher dose level. Two-hourly renal clearance values of procainamide were significantly (PQ0.05) reduced in the 2 to 10 h period and for NAPA between 0 to 6 and 8 to 10 h. The larger ranitidine dose reduced the renal clearances of procainamide and NAPA over the control period at each 2-hourly time period. The reductions in renal clearance are most likely mediated by competition for the renal tubular cationic secretory pathway. Clinical implications arising from this study suggest a reduction in procainamide dosage may be necessary in a small, select number of patients with high plasma ranitidine concentrations, e.g., the elderly; furthermore, failure of therapeutic response for some drugs may be due to ranitidine-induced impaired gastrointestinal absorption.