Could inexpensive heart medicine strengthen bone in women?

Nitrates commonly used for chest pain may also be an inexpensive way to strengthen bone in older women according to a surprising study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

According to a report in HealthDay, the researchers 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.”

Bloomberg News reported, “Headaches were reported by 35 percent of women in the first month of treatment and decreased over time.”

MedPage Today noted that women randomized to the nitroglycerin group had “significant increases compared with placebo in real bone mineral density (BMD) at the lumbar spine (from 1.05 to 1.14 g/cm2), at the total hip (from 0.92 to 0.97 g/cm2) and at the femoral neck (from 0.88 to 0.93 g/cm2).”

The comparable areal BMD changes in the placebo group were from “1.06 to 1.08 g/cm2, from 0.93 to 0.92 g/cm2, and from 0.88 to 0.93 g/cm2 at the lumbar spine, total hip, and femoral neck,” respectively.

The percentage changes were “6.7%, 6.2%, and 7.0% at the lumbar spine, total hip, and femoral neck,” respectively.

The nitroglycerin ointment also increased “volumetric trabecular bone mineral density, cortical thickness, periosteal circumference, polar section modulus, and polar moment of inertia at the radius and tibia, all at P<0.001).”

WebMD quoted Sundeep Khosla, MD, of the College of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., who wrote that although the results are “very intriguing,” it would be “a little premature to start using this.”

Dr. Khosla told WebMD that the “effect of the medicine on fracture risk needs more study.”

Nevertheless, it’s something I’ll be keeping an eye on for you.

 

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