A multicenter, randomized, placebo-controlled, parallel group study of diltiazem in essential hypertension was carried out in 77 patients (40 difazem, 37 placebo) with stable supine diastolic blood pressure (BP) between 95 and 110 mm Hg. Patients were withdrawn from previous antihypertensive therapy for at least 4 weeks, titrated to the optimal dose, and followed for a total of 12 weeks during therapy. A diltiazem dose of 360 mg/day was required in 85% of the patients. Average BP In all positions was significantly (p <0.0001) reduced by diltiazem compared with placebo. With diltiazem, average supine BP fell from 156/100 mm Hg at baseline to 141/87 at end titration and 145/90 mm Hg at week 12, whereas average standing BP fell from 152/101 mm Hg to 136/90 and 143/91 mm Hg, respectively, at those times. There was no significant change In heart rate at week 12. Diltiazem tended to be more effective in older patients, but caused no Increase in orthostatic BP drop. There were no statistically significant changes in BP in the placebo group. Two patients receiving placebo and 1 patient receiving diltiazem discontinued therapy as a result of adverse effects, and overall, side effects were only slightly more common with diltiazem treatment. Thus, diltiazem was effective and well tolerated single therapy for mild to moderate systemic hypertension and appears to compare favorably to most agents being used.