February 25, 2011

Nitrates: Cheap Osteoporosis Treatment?

By: Rhonda Craig, Ivanhoe Health Correspondent

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- The same medicines used to treat angina and chronic heart failure, may also help treat osteoporosis. In this new study, researchers found that postmenopausal women that used nitroglycerin ointment for two years experienced a modest increase in bone mineral density and decrease in bone loss.

According to study authors, the number of osteoporotic fractures is increasing, and an inexpensive and widely available treatment like Nitroglycerin, may potentially help limit this increase. For the research, Sophie A. Jamal, M.D., Ph.D., of the Women's College Research Institute and University of Toronto, Canada, and her colleagues wanted to find out if once-daily nitroglycerin ointment could be used to increase bone mineral density (BMD). During a randomized trial, 243 postmenopausal women applied nitroglycerin ointment or placebo to their arm or thigh at bedtime, for two years.

"We found that the nitroglycerin group had an increase in bone mineral density at the hip and spine of seven percent, and an increase in the thickness of the bone of almost 25 percent in their legs. They had an increase of 15 percent in their arms, compared to the placebo group. The increase in bone thickness was unexpected because it's not something you see with existing therapies," Dr. Jamal told Ivanhoe.

The authors found that daily administration of nitroglycerin ointment not only increases bone formation and decreases bone loss, but it also improves BMD, and bone structure at least as much as existing treatments. They concluded that daily nitroglycerin may reduce the risk of vertebral and non-vertebral fractures.

"While other treatments work by either slowing the breakdown of bone, or increasing bone formation, nitroglycerin does both at the same time. The results from the study are very encouraging but further larger trials are needed, both to replicate these findings and to determine the effects on fracture, before any treatment recommendations can be made." Dr. Jamal concluded.

SOURCE: JAMA, February 23, 2011