Antiangina Drugs

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Antiangina Drugs


Antiangina drugs are medicines that relieve the symptoms of angina pectoris (severe chest pain ).


The dull, tight chest pain of angina occurs when the heart's muscular wall is not getting enough oxygen. By relaxing the blood vessels, antiangina drugs reduce the heart's work load and increase the amount of oxygenrich blood that reaches the heart. These drugs come in different forms, and are used in three main ways:

  • taken regularly over a long period, they reduce the number of angina attacks.
  • taken just before some activity that usually brings on an attack, such as climbing stairs, they prevent attacks.
  • taken when an attack begins, they relieve the pain and pressure.
Antiangina Drugs
Brand Name (Generic Name)Possible Common Side Effects
Calan (calan SR, isoptin, isoptin
SR, verelan)
Constipation, dizziness, fatigue,
headache, fluid retention, low blood
pressure, nausea
Cardene (nicardipine
Dizziness, headache, indigestion,
nausea, rapid heartbeat, sleepiness,
swelling of feet, flushing
Cardizem (diltiazem
Dizziness, fluid retention, headache,
nausea, rash
Corgard (nadolol)Behaviorial changes, dizziness,
drowsiness, tiredness
Imdur, Ismo, Monoket
(isosorbide mononitrate)
Isordil (isosorbide dinitrate)Headache, dizziness, low blood
Lopressor (metroprolol tartrate)Depression, diarrhea, itching, rash,
Nitro-Bid, Nitro-Dur, Nitrolingual
Spray, Nitrostat Tables,
Transderm-Nitro (nitroglycerin)
Dizziness, flushing, headache
Norvasc (amlodipine besylate)Dizziness, fatigue, fluid retention,
headache, palpitations
Procardia, Procardia XL, Adalat
Constipation, dizziness, hearburn,
low blood pressure, moodiness,
nausea, swelling
Tenormin (atenolol)Dizziness, fatigue, nausea, slowed

Not every form of antiangina drug can be used in every way. Some work too slowly to prevent attacks that are about to begin or to relieve attacks that have already started. These forms can be used only to reduce the number of attacks. Be sure to understand how and when to use the type of antiangina drug that has been prescribed.


Antiangina drugs, also known as nitrates, come in many different forms: tablets and capsules that are swallowed; tablets that are held under the tongue, inside the lip, or in the cheek until they dissolve; stick-on patches; ointment; and in-the-mouth sprays. Commonly used antiangina drugs include isosorbide dinitrate (Isordil, Sorbitrate, and other brands) and nitroglycerin (Nitro-Bid, Nitro-Dur, Nitrolingual Spray, Nitrostat Tablets, Transderm-Nitro, and other brands). These medicines are available only with a physician's prescription.

Recommended dosage

The recommended dosage depends on the type and form of antiangina drug and may be different for different patients. Check with the physician who prescribed the drug or the pharmacist who filled the prescription for the correct dosage.

Always take antiangina drugs exactly as directed. The medicine will not work if it is not taken correctly.

Do not stop taking this medicine suddenly after taking it for several weeks or more, as this could cause angina attacks to return. If it is necessary to stop taking the drug, check with the physician who prescribed it for instructions on how to taper down gradually.


Remember that some forms of antiangina drugs work too slowly to relieve attacks that have already started. Check with the physician who prescribed the medicine for instructions on how to use the type that has been prescribed. Patients who are using slower-acting forms to make attacks less frequent may want to ask their physicians to prescribe a fast-acting type to relieve attacks. Another method of treating the frequency of attacks is to increase the dosage of the long-acting antiangina drug. Do this only with the approval of a physician.

These medicines make some people feel lightheaded, dizzy, or faint when they get up after sitting or lying down. To lessen the problem, get up gradually and hold onto something for support if possible. Antiangina drugs may also cause dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting in hot weather or when people stand for a long time or exercise. Use caution in all these situations. Drinking alcohol while taking antiangina drugs may cause the same problems. Anyone who takes this medicine should limit the amount of alcohol consumed.

Because these drugs may cause dizziness, be careful when driving, using machines, or doing anything else that could be dangerous.

If the person is taking the form of nitroglycerin that is placed under the tongue and symptoms are not relieved within three doses taken about 5 minutes apart, the person should go to the hospital emergency room as soon as possible. A heart attack may be in progress.

Some people develop tolerance to antiangina drugs over time. That is, the drug no longer produces the desired effects. Anyone who seems to be developing a tolerance to this medicine should check with his or her physician.

Anyone who has had unusual reactions to antiangina drugs in the past should let his or her physician know before taking the drugs again. The physician should also be told about any allergies to foods, dyes, preservatives, or other substances.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding or who may become pregnant should check with their physicians before using antiangina drugs.

Older people may be especially sensitive to the effects of antiangina drugs and thus more likely to have side effects such as dizziness and lightheadedness.

Before using antiangina drugs, people with any of these medical problems should make sure their physicians are aware of their conditions:

  • recent heart attack or stroke
  • kidney disease
  • liver disease
  • severe anemia
  • overactive thyroid
  • glaucoma
  • recent head injury

Side effects

A common side effect is a headache just after taking a dose of the medicine. These headaches usually become less noticeable as the body adjusts to the drug. Check with a physician if they are severe or they continue even after taking the medicine for a few weeks. Unless a physician says to do so, do not change the dose to avoid headaches. Other common side effects include dizziness, lightheadedness, fast pulse, flushed face and neck, nausea or vomiting, and restlessness. These problems do not need medical attention unless they do not go away or they interfere with normal activities.


Angina pectoris A feeling of tightness, heaviness, or pain in the chest, caused by a lack of oxygen in the muscular wall of the heart.

Other side effects may occur. Anyone who has unusual symptoms after taking an antiangina drug should get in touch with his or her physician.


Antiangina drugs may interact with other medicines. This may increase the risk of side effects or change the effects of one or both drugs. Anyone who takes antiangina drugs should let the physician know all other medicines he or she is taking. Among the drugs that may interact with antiangina drugs are:

  • other heart medicines
  • blood pressure medicines
  • aspirin
  • alcohol
  • ergot alkaloids used in migraine headaches