Verapamil kinetics after intravenous and single and long-term oral dosing were studied in 12 patients with coronary artery spasm and four normal subjects. The decline in plasma concentration after intravenous doses was described by triexponential decay equation, with a terminal half-life (t1/2) of 5 hr. After a single oral dose the bioavailability was only 24%, probably because of the first-pass metabolism. During long-term oral doses of 80 mg every 6 hr, mean peak and trough concentrations were 255 +/- 90 and 105 +/- 38 ng/ml, and mean time at which peak concentration occurred was 1.2 +/- 0.5 hr. Norverapamil, the major active metabolite of verapamil, cumulated during oral dosing and may account for a small proportion of the overall pharmacologic effect. Mean elimination t1/2 during long-term oral dosing was longer than after a single dose (9.6 and 5.7 hr, P less than 0.05). Also, during long-term dosing the area under the curve was more than double that of a single dose, and the apparent oral clearance fell from 4.2 to 1.8 l/min (P less than 0.01). These changes may partly be explained by reduction in presystemic metabolism during long-term therapy. Kinetic predictions based on single doses will not give reliable estimates for long-term oral dosage. Less frequent dose schedule may be possible for prolonged therapy.