Previously, it had been demonstrated that cataract in diabetic rats can be prevented by systemical administration of the calcium channel blocker verapamil. In addition to that, 0.125% verapamil eye drops were found to significantly reduce the intraocular pressure in ocular hypertensive human subjects. The purpose of this study was to investigate the ocular penetration and elimination of verapamil after topical administration of the drug in rabbits. Two drops of a 0.125% aqueous solution of RS-verapamil hydrochloride (corresponding to a total dose of 125 microg RS-verapamil hydrochloride) were administered into the conjunctival sac. Aqueous humor and blood samples were taken at different times after administration and analysed for drug concentration by combined gas chromatography-mass spectroscopy. Following the instillation of 0.125% verapamil eye drops in a total dose of 125 microg RS-verapamil, mean (+/- SEM) aqueous humor peak levels of 1607 +/- 272 ng/ml were achieved after 20 min. Mean half-life for the elimination from the aqueous humor was 33 min. Topical application of verapamil produced very low serum peak concentrations (10.5 +/- 1.3 ng/ml). The results of our study demonstrate that topically administered verapamil readily penetrates into the anterior chamber leading to aqueous humor drug levels in the microM range without producing serum levels that are high enough to cause cardiovascular side effects.