For reasons that remain somewhat mysterious to us, amlodipine (Norvasc) is one of the most popular blood pressure medications in the pharmacy. This calcium channel blocker lowers blood pressure in part by interfering with the flow of calcium into artery walls. This helps dilate blood vessels in the heart and throughout the body.

Possible side effects associated with amlodipine include:

  • Swollen ankles
  • Fluid retention
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Flushing
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Palpitations
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Skin rash

A fascinating study called ALLHAT (Antihypertensive and Lipid-Lowering Treatment to Prevent Heart Attack Trial) involving over 33,000 participants revealed some curious data. An inexpensive diuretic called chlorthalidone was just as effective as pricier drugs like lisinopril (Prinivil or Zestril) or amlodipine (Norvasc) when it came to reducing complications of hypertension such as kidney or cardiovascular problems. More important, however, this diuretic was better able to prevent heart failure (Archives of Internal Medicine, May, 2009).

Heart failure is a very serious condition. Elizabeth Taylor just died from congestive heart failure and it is a difficult disease to treat. Because calcium channel blockers like amlodipine have been linked to a higher risk of heart failure (American Heart Journal, Jan, 2007), than diuretics like chlorthalidone, we think patients should be warned about this potential complication and other side effects associated with this medication.

One other word of caution. An article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (Feb. 22, 2011) has reported that when calcium channel blockers like amlodipine are combined with certain antibiotics such as erythromycin (E-Mycin) or clarithromycin (Biaxin) that the result can be a precipitous drop in blood pressure. This is particularly problematic for older people as it can cause serious dizziness or shock and lead to some very dangerous cardiovascular complications.

Below you will find reports from visitors to this website. Feel free to add your own experience (positive or negative) with regards to amlodipine.


Paul43, March 22, 1011:

I take amlodipine (Norvasc) and always have bouts of drowsiness. Is there another high blood pressure medication out there that would replace amlodipine without the drowsiness or do all blood pressure drugs cause drowsiness?


Vicki S, Feb. 20, 2010:

I have always had a problem with any kind of medicine since I was young. I am now on only two medicines for BP: atenolol and amlodipine. I suffer severe headaches and debilitating flu like symptoms without the muscle aches. I experience dizziness to the point of being immobile.

No doctor seems concerned or able to find anything to help. They just don’t want to deal with it. How dangerous are these side effects and what should I do?


Tyler, Oct. 26, 2010:

On my doctor’s advice I took 10mg of amlodipine (Norvasc) along with Carvedilol for about a year to control high blood pressure. I am otherwise healthy.

After my feet began swelling, I put up with it for as long as I could, but stopped when it became too painful to walk. So I called my doctor and told his nurse that I was stopping the two drugs, and asked if there was something else I could take.

They called back and scheduled an appointment. When I saw the doctor a few days later, he said he would not prescribe a new drug at that time. HE NEVER MENTIONED ANY POSSIBLE PROBLEM FROM ABRUPTLY STOPPING THE AMLODIPINE. About 10 days later I developed extreme “rebound hypertension,” with BP soaring to as high as 220 over 118.

Two weeks later, I am STILL struggling with high hypertension!! These doctors cause more problems than they solve by failing to give patients the info they need to make intelligent health decisions. Had I been warned, I would NOT have stopped the drugs abruptly, but sought advice on how to wean myself off of them.


Janice, June 25, 2009:

I have been taking many medicines for my blood pressure. Currently I am taking Metoprolol ER Succinate (100 MG), Diovan (320 MG), Hydroclorothiazide (12.5 MG), Levothyroxine (0.05 MG), and Amoldopine Besylate (5 MG) for my blood pressure.

My problem is that recently the Amoldopine Besylate was added. I have been smelling cigarette smoke which is not there.

I thought maybe I was going crazy until I went on the internet and saw that someone else was having the same senses, but it was with a different medicine. I would like to know if any of my medicines are causing this. It is weird. I work in a smoke free environment, yet I walk into the doctors offices and smell smoke and I am the only one smelling it.


Jimmybw, Jan. 23, 2011:

Interesting. I noticed the past two years that my feet get really cold at night. I never linked it to my medications. I checked with my Doctor, and he believed it could be a side effect of the Amlodipine. In fact, he was having the same issue with the drug.

What caught my eye here was the comment about smelling cigarette smoke. I’ve noticed it as well. I thought someone may have been outside my home smoking, but never saw anyone.


SW, Oct, 2007:

I have taken Norvasc for 15 years without any problems. The new generic Amlodipine Besylate caused me to have every side effect listed, headache, dizziness, nausea and swelling of the feet and ankles. Unfortunately since there is now a generic available the cost of Norvasc is sky high.

 

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  1. Jerry M
    Clearwater, FL
    Reply

    I just found the possible answer here in this column to my own bout of coughing, smoke-smelling and depression. Maybe it’s the generic Norvasc! I’ve been on this stuff for about a year…10 mg / day. Just recently, I’ve been experiencing ticklish coughing bouts which produce the type of phlegm that’s white, thin and metallic tasting. Yuuck. Also noticed some foot swelling. Sleep like CRRRAPP, which is abnormal for me. I am a 61 y.o male living in Florida, where you must have the A/C on continuously. Therefore, when the symptoms kicked in, I was thinking that it was mold in the unit, as my brother, the room mate is also coughing the same type cough. He’s 75 and takes too many pills that the VA doles out. Never questions the doctor. Still not sure where this cough is coming from, but I exhibit NO signs of a cold, virus or bacterial infections. Thanks for the help and hope that maybe getting off this stuff is the way out…My BP is, ( w/o Norvasc ) about 140/90.

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