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Cardiovasc Drugs Ther. 2016 Aug;30(4):367-378. doi: 10.1007/s10557-016-6668-z.

Vasodilator Therapy: Nitrates and Nicorandil.

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Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, University of Cambridge, Box 110, ACCI, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, CB2 QQ, UK.
Cardiovascular and Cell Sciences Research Institute, St George's, University of London, Cranmer Terrace, Tooting, London, SW17 0RE, UK.

Erratum in


Nitrates have been used to treat symptoms of chronic stable angina for over 135 years. These drugs are known to activate nitric oxide (NO)-cyclic guanosine-3',-5'-monophasphate (cGMP) signaling pathways underlying vascular smooth muscle cell relaxation, albeit many questions relating to how nitrates work at the cellular level remain unanswered. Physiologically, the anti-angina effects of nitrates are mostly due to peripheral venous dilatation leading to reduction in preload and therefore left ventricular wall stress, and, to a lesser extent, epicardial coronary artery dilatation and lowering of systemic blood pressure. By counteracting ischemic mechanisms, short-acting nitrates offer rapid relief following an angina attack. Long-acting nitrates, used commonly for angina prophylaxis are recommended second-line, after beta-blockers and calcium channel antagonists. Nicorandil is a balanced vasodilator that acts as both NO donor and arterial K(+) ATP channel opener. Nicorandil might also exhibit cardioprotective properties via mitochondrial ischemic preconditioning. While nitrates and nicorandil are effective pharmacological agents for prevention of angina symptoms, when prescribing these drugs it is important to consider that unwanted and poorly tolerated hemodynamic side-effects such as headache and orthostatic hypotension can often occur owing to systemic vasodilatation. It is also necessary to ensure that a dosing regime is followed that avoids nitrate tolerance, which not only results in loss of drug efficacy, but might also cause endothelial dysfunction and increase long-term cardiovascular risk. Here we provide an update on the pharmacological management of chronic stable angina using nitrates and nicorandil.


Nicorandil; Nitrates; Stable angina; Vasodilators

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