The effects of racemic (rac) felodipine, rac-nitrendipine and nifedipine (all 20 mg solution p.o.) on non-invasively measured blood pressure and heart rate were investigated in a randomised, double-blind, cross-over study in 12 normotensive, young, healthy males. Compared to baseline values, heart rate increased more after rac-felodipine treatment (+47% at maximum) than rac-nitrendipine (+40%) and nifedipine (+38%); only small and variable changes in blood pressure were observed with any of the drugs. The baseline-corrected area under the heart rate-time curve up to 4 h after the administration of rac-felodipine was 197% and 180% larger than after nifedipine and rac-nitrendipine treatment, respectively. The effects on heart rate could be fitted individually to a sigmoidal Emax-model without hysteresis for all drugs under investigation. The relative potencies of the unbound drugs for their indirect effects on heart rate were 1:7:43 for nifedipine, rac-nitrendipine and rac-felodipine, respectively. The active (S)-enantiomers of felodipine and nitrendipine appeared to be 9- and 60-times as potent as nifedipine in this respect, assuming no (inter)activity of the (R)-enantiomers. Individual and mean changes in blood pressure were small, they were not related to plasma concentrations, and did not differ between treatments.