The pharmacokinetics of dextro(+)- and levo(-)-verapamil were studied in five healthy volunteers following oral administration of pseudoracemic verapamil containing equal amounts of unlabelled (-)- and dideuterated (+)-isomer. (+)-verapamil exhibited approximately five times greater Cmax (+): 240 +/- 81.1 ng/ml, (-): 46.1 +/- 15.7 ng/ml, P less than 0.0001) and AUC than (-)-verapamil. The apparent oral clearance (CLo) for (+)-verapamil was significantly smaller than that for (-)-verapamil (+): 1.72 +/- 0.57 l/min, (-): 7.46 +/- 2.16 l/min, P less than 0.001). The bioavailability of (+)-verapamil (50%) was 2.5 times greater than that of (-)-verapamil (20%), P less than 0.005). Thus following oral administration verapamil exhibited a stereoselective first-pass metabolism. Neither tmax nor the elimination t1/2,z were different between the isomers. The elimination of t1/2,z for each verapamil isomer obtained following oral administration (+): 4.03 h, (-): 5.38 h) were similar to those previously obtained following intravenous administration (+): 4.15 h, (-): 5.38 h, respectively. Whereas the (+)- to (-)-verapamil plasma concentration ratio following oral administration was 4.92 +/- 0.48, the ratio following i.v. administration was approximately 2. (-)-verapamil has been demonstrated to possess 8 to 10 times more potent negative dromotropic effect on AV conduction than (+)-verapamil. Therefore, following oral administration the same concentration of plasma verapamil consisting of a two to three times smaller proportion of the more potent (-)-isomer appeared to be less potent than that following i.v. administration with regard to the negative dromotropic effects on the AV conduction.