NITROGLYCERIN- nitroglycerin tablet
Golden State Medical Supply, Inc.


Nitroglycerin is a stabilized sublingual compressed nitroglycerin tablet that contains 0.3 mg, 0.4 mg, or 0.6 mg nitroglycerin USP; as well as calcium stearate powder, colloidal silicon dioxide, hydrogenated vegetable oil, lactose monohydrate, and pregelatinized starch.

Nitroglycerin, an organic nitrate, is a vasodilating agent. The chemical name for nitroglycerin is 1, 2, 3 propanetriol trinitrate and the chemical structure is:

(click image for full-size original)

Molecular weight: 227.09


The principal pharmacological action of nitroglycerin is relaxation of vascular smooth muscle. Although venous effects predominate, nitroglycerin produces, in a dose-related manner, dilation of both arterial and venous beds. Dilation of postcapillary vessels, including large veins, promotes peripheral pooling of blood, decreases venous return to the heart, and reduces left ventricular end-diastolic pressure (preload). Nitroglycerin also produces arteriolar relaxation, thereby reducing peripheral vascular resistance and arterial pressure (afterload), and dilates large epicardial coronary arteries; however, the extent to which this latter effect contributes to the relief of exertional angina is unclear.

Therapeutic doses of nitroglycerin may reduce systolic, diastolic, and mean arterial blood pressure. Effective coronary perfusion pressure is usually maintained, but can be compromised if blood pressure falls excessively, or increased heart rate decreases diastolic filling time.

Elevated central venous and pulmonary capillary wedge pressures, and pulmonary and systemic vascular resistance are also reduced by nitroglycerin therapy. Heart rate is usually slightly increased, presumably due to a compensatory response to the fall in blood pressure. Cardiac index may be increased, decreased, or unchanged. Myocardial oxygen consumption or demand (as measured by the pressure-rate product, tension-time index, and stroke-work index) is decreased and a more favorable supply-demand ratio can be achieved. Patients with elevated left ventricular filling pressures and increased systemic vascular resistance in association with a depressed cardiac index are likely to experience an improvement in cardiac index. In contrast, when filling pressures and cardiac index are normal, cardiac index may be slightly reduced following nitroglycerin administration.

Mechanism of Action: Nitroglycerin forms free radical nitric oxide (NO) which activates guanylate cyclase, resulting in an increase of guanosine 3’5′ monophosphate (cyclic GMP) in smooth muscle and other tissues. These events lead to dephosphorylation of myosin light chains, which regulate the contractile state in smooth muscle, and result in vasodilatation.

Pharmacodynamics: Consistent with the symptomatic relief of angina, digital plethysmography indicates that onset of the vasodilatory effect occurs approximately 1 to 3 minutes after sublingual nitroglycerin administration and reaches a maximum by 5 minutes postdose. Effects persist for at least 25 minutes following nitroglycerin administration.

Pharmacokinetics and Drug Metabolism Absorption: Nitroglycerin is rapidly absorbed following sublingual administration of nitroglycerin sublingual tablets. Mean peak nitroglycerin plasma concentrations occur at a mean time of approximately 6 to 7 minutes postdose (Table 1). Maximum plasma nitroglycerin concentrations (C max ) and area under the plasma concentration-time curves (AUC) increase dose-proportionally following 0.3 to 0.6 mg nitroglycerin. The absolute bioavailability of nitroglycerin from nitroglycerin sublingual tablets is approximately 40% but tends to be variable due to factors influencing drug absorption, such as sublingual hydration and mucosal metabolism.

Table 1

Parameter Mean Nitroglycerin (SD) Values
2 x 0.3 mg
Nitroglycerin Sublingual Tablets
1 x 0.6 mg
Nitroglycerin Sublingual Tablets
C max , ng/mL 2.3 (1.7) 2.1 (1.5)
T max , min 6.4 (2.5) 7.2 (3.2)
AUC (0–∞) , min 14.9 (8.2) 14.9 (11.4)
t ½ , min 2.8 (1.1) 2.6 (0.6)

Distribution: The volume of distribution (V Area ) of nitroglycerin following intravenous administration is 3.3 L/kg. At plasma concentrations between 50 and 500 ng/mL, the binding of nitroglycerin to plasma proteins is approximately 60%, while that of 1,2- and 1,3-dinitroglycerin is 60% and 30%, respectively.

Metabolism: A liver reductase enzyme is of primary importance in the metabolism of nitroglycerin to glycerol di- and mononitrate metabolites and ultimately to glycerol and organic nitrate. Known sites of extrahepatic metabolism include red blood cells and vascular walls. In addition to nitroglycerin, 2 major metabolites 1,2- and 1,3-dinitroglycerin, are found in plasma. Mean peak 1,2- and 1,3-dinitroglycerin plasma concentrations occur at approximately 15 minutes postdose. The elimination half-life of 1,2- and 1,3-dinitroglycerin is 36 and 32 minutes, respectively. The 1,2- and 1,3-dinitroglycerin metabolites have been reported to possess approximately 2% and 10%, respectively, of the pharmacological activity of nitroglycerin. Higher plasma concentrations of the dinitro metabolites, along with their nearly 10-fold longer elimination half-lives, may contribute significantly to the duration of pharmacologic effect. Glycerol mononitrate metabolites of nitroglycerin are biologically inactive.

Elimination: Nitroglycerin plasma concentrations decrease rapidly, with a mean elimination half-life of 2 to 3 minutes. Half-life values range from 1.5 to 7.5 minutes. Clearance (13.6 L/min) greatly exceeds hepatic blood flow. Metabolism is the primary route of drug elimination.


Nitroglycerin sublingual tablets are indicated for the acute relief of an attack or acute prophylaxis of angina pectoris due to coronary artery disease.


Nitroglycerin sublingual tablets are contraindicated in patients who are allergic to it.

Sublingual nitroglycerin therapy is contraindicated in patients with early myocardial infarction, severe anemia, increased intracranial pressure, and those with a known hypersensitivity to nitroglycerin.

Administration of nitroglycerin sublingual tablets are contraindicated in patients who are using a phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE-5) inhibitor (e.g., sildenafil citrate, tadalafil, vardenafil hydrochloride) since these compounds have been shown to potentiate the hypotensive effects of organic nitrates.

Do not use nitroglycerin sublingual tablets in patients who are taking the soluble guanylate cyclase stimulator riociguat. Concomitant use can cause hypotension.


The benefits of sublingual nitroglycerin in patients with acute myocardial infarction or congestive heart failure have not been established. If one elects to use nitroglycerin in these conditions, careful clinical or hemodynamic monitoring must be used because of the possibility of hypotension and tachycardia.



Only the smallest dose required for effective relief of the acute anginal attack should be used. Excessive use may lead to the development of tolerance. Nitroglycerin sublingual tablets are intended for sublingual or buccal administration and should not be swallowed.

Severe hypotension, particularly with upright posture, may occur with small doses of nitroglycerin. This drug should therefore be used with caution in patients who may be volume-depleted or who, for whatever reason, are already hypotensive. Hypotension induced by nitroglycerin may be accompanied by paradoxical bradycardia and increased angina pectoris.

Nitrate therapy may aggravate the angina caused by hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

As tolerance to other forms of nitroglycerin develops, the effects of sublingual nitroglycerin on exercise tolerance, although still observable, is blunted.

In industrial workers who have had long-term exposure to unknown (presumably high) doses of organic nitrates, tolerance rarely occurs. Chest pain, acute myocardial infarction, and even sudden death have occurred during temporary withdrawal of nitrates from these workers, demonstrating the existence of true physical dependence.

Several clinical trials of nitroglycerin patches or infusions in patients with angina pectoris have evaluated regimens that incorporated a 10- to 12-hour nitrate free interval. In some of these trials, an increase in the frequency of anginal attacks during the nitrate free interval was observed in a small number of patients. In one trial, patients had decreased exercise tolerance at the end of the nitrate interval. Hemodynamic rebound has been observed only rarely; on the other hand, few studies were so designed that rebound, if it had occurred, would have been detected.

Nitrate tolerance as a result of sublingual nitroglycerin administration is probably possible, but only in patients who maintain high continuous nitrate levels for more than 10 or 12 hours daily. Such use of sublingual nitroglycerin would entail administration of scores of tablets daily and is not recommended.

The drug should be discontinued if blurring of vision or drying of the mouth occurs. Excessive dosage of nitroglycerin may produce severe headaches.

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