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Drugs. 1987 Sep;34(3):391-403.

Glyceryl trinitrate (nitroglycerin) and the organic nitrates. Choosing the method of administration.

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Division of Cardiology, University of New Mexico School of Medicine, Albuquerque.


Nitrate usage worldwide is on the increase as the indications for therapy expand. Present indications for nitrate therapy include chronic stable angina pectoris, unstable angina pectoris, complications of acute myocardial infarction, and 'unloading' therapy for acute and chronic congestive heart failure. Nitrates are also being used in the operating suite by anaesthesiologists to control systolic blood pressure during various surgical procedures. New nitrate delivery systems have recently become available which provide considerable dosing flexibility, further increasing the interest in this group of compounds. The dominant action of nitrates is a direct effect on vascular smooth muscle, producing vasodilation of the veins and arteries. These drugs decrease myocardial work by lowering systolic blood pressure, systemic vascular resistance, and reducing intracardiac dimensions. In addition, nitrates have a potent effect on cardiac preload as a result of systemic venodilatation. There is also some evidence that nitrates exert direct effects on the coronary circulation (vasodilatation of coronary arteries and coronary collateral vessels, and direct atherosclerotic stenosis dilatation). These actions may play a role in relieving myocardial ischaemia. Adverse sequelae of nitrate therapy are well known and serious adverse reactions are uncommon. Headache and dizziness are the most frequent side effects. Nitrate tolerance is a definite problem - present evidence indicates that long acting formulations, high doses, or frequent dosing regimens are particularly likely to induce vascular tolerance to nitrates. Consequently, provision of a nitrate-free interval has taken on increasing significance as a strategy to avoid tolerance. Nitrate delivery systems are numerous. Although availability varies from country to country, in most countries there are a wide variety of formulations of glyceryl trinitrate (nitroglycerin) available, including sublingual and oral tablets, oral spray, topical ointment as well as discs or patches for transdermal administration, a transmucosal tablet and an intravenous formulation. Similar formulations of isosorbide dinitrate, except buccal tablets, are available in some countries. Isosorbide 5-mononitrate, a potent metabolite of isosorbide dinitrate, is achieving increasing popularity as an antianginal drug. Optimum nitrate therapy requires a good understanding of the properties of the various formulations, particularly onset and duration of action and propensity to induce tolerance.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS).

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