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Nitroglycerin Ointment Might Strengthen Bones
Date:2/22/2011

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Feb. 22 (HealthDay News) -- Nitroglycerin ointment, usually prescribed to relieve chest pain, may also counter bone loss, a new study suggests.

As the population ages, the number of women with osteoporosis is increasing. Nitroglycerin appears to increase bone density and prevent bone loss, and it may have advantages over newer and more costly drugs, the researchers noted.

"Nitrates are widely available and inexpensive," said lead researcher Dr. Sophie A. Jamal, an assistant professor of medicine at Women's College Research Institute and University of Toronto. "Our study demonstrates that nitrates are able to increase bone size and strength, which may reduce the incidence of fractures worldwide."

However, whether or not this treatment actually reduces fractures is unknown. "These are promising early findings. Further, larger studies need to be done to confirm our findings and to determine if nitrates can reduce fractures," Jamal said.

The treatment seems to work by producing nitric oxide, which may aid in stimulating bone growth, the researchers noted. The report is published in the Feb. 23 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

For the study, Jamal's team randomly assigned 243 postmenopausal women to nightly doses of nitroglycerin ointment or placebo. The ointment was spread on a one-inch strip on the upper arm.

To test the effectiveness of the treatment, the researchers measured bone density at the spine, thigh and hip. The trial ran for two years.

Compared with women receiving a placebo, women who received nitroglycerin ointment had a 6.7 percent increase in bone density in the spine, a 6.2 percent increase in the hip and a 7 percent increase at the top of the thigh bone, the researchers found.

The most common side effect of the nitroglycerin ointment was headache. Among those receiving the ointment, 35 perc
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