Cimetidine is known to impair the hepatic microsomal oxidation of diazepam, reducing its clearance and prolonging its half-life. We studied the clinical importance of this effect in 10 patients, who were receiving long-term treatment with diazepam for anxiety, tension, or difficulty in sleeping, in an eight-week double-blind controlled study during which the diazepam dosage remained constant. The study was in four two-week phases: base-line or adaptation, coadministration of cimetidine (300 mg) or matching placebo four times daily, crossover to the opposite treatment (placebo or cimetidine), and recovery treatment with diazepam alone. During the cimetidine phase, plasma concentrations of diazepam plus desmethyldiazepam rose an average of 57 percent (P<0.005), then fell when cimetidine was withdrawn. However, there were no significant changes in scores on the digit-symbol-substitution test, a tracking task, or a reaction-time test. Clinical self-ratings indicated no increases in sedation, fatigue, or drowsiness. Patients experienced shortening of sleep latency (P<0.05) and an increase in self-rated depth or soundness of sleep (P<0.001) during the cimetidine period, but there were no changes in sleep duration or in the number of nocturnal awakenings. Although coadministration of cimetidine to diazepam-treated patients causes a large increase in plasma diazepam and desmethyldiazepam concentrations, the increase is of minimal clinical importance. (N Engl J Med 1984; 310:1639–43.).
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