Nicorandil. A review of its pharmacology and therapeutic efficacy in angina pectoris

Drugs. 1992 Oct;44(4):625-55. doi: 10.2165/00003495-199244040-00008.


Nicorandil belongs to the class of compounds known as potassium channel activators which are characterised by their arterial vasodilator properties. In addition, nicorandil has venodilating properties which are attributable to a nitrate group in its chemical structure. Therefore, by combining these two vasodilator mechanisms, nicorandil represents a novel type of compound for use in the treatment of angina pectoris. Furthermore, increasing experimental evidence suggests that potassium channel activation may also exert a direct cytoprotective effect by augmenting normal physiological processes which protect the heart against ischaemic events. Comparative studies of up to 3 months' duration suggest that nicorandil is equivalent in efficacy to isosorbide dinitrate, propranolol, atenolol, nifedipine or diltiazem in the treatment of stable angina. Preliminary evidence suggests that an improvement of anginal and ischaemic symptoms is maintained for up to 1 year. Whilst the efficacy of nicorandil in other types of angina has not been extensively studied, preliminary results indicate that intravenous nicorandil is as effective as isosorbide dinitrate in the treatment of unstable angina and is also effective in patients with variant angina. In addition, the limited data available indicate that nicorandil may be effective in patients with unstable and variant angina who are refractory to therapy with conventional antianginal agents, a potentially important area for further study. Headache, mostly of mild to moderate intensity was the most commonly reported adverse event, occurring in one-third of patients receiving the recommended therapeutic regimen of nicorandil 10 to 20mg twice daily. In comparative trials involving a total of 84 patients who received nicorandil, the incidence of headache was similar to that produced by isosorbide mononitrate and isosorbide dinitrate. Headache was most frequent on initiating therapy but declined with continued treatment. To date, approximately 5% of patients participating in European trials have withdrawn due to headache, although this rate may be reduced by using a lower starting dose of nicorandil (5 mg twice daily). In summary, clinical experience thus far indicates that nicorandil, with its novel combination of two distinct vasodilator mechanisms, offers an effective alternative to established vasodilator therapy with conventional nitrates and calcium antagonists in the long term treatment of stable angina pectoris. Further studies are warranted to establish whether the unique pharmacodynamic profile of nicorandil is advantageous for the treatment of other types of angina and/or the ischaemic myocardium.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Angina Pectoris / drug therapy*
  • Animals
  • Biological Availability
  • Drug Interactions
  • Drug Tolerance
  • Hemodynamics / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Niacinamide / analogs & derivatives*
  • Niacinamide / pharmacokinetics
  • Niacinamide / pharmacology
  • Niacinamide / therapeutic use
  • Nicorandil
  • Nitrates / pharmacology
  • Potassium Channels / drug effects
  • Vasodilator Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Vasodilator Agents / pharmacology
  • Vasodilator Agents / therapeutic use*


  • Nitrates
  • Potassium Channels
  • Vasodilator Agents
  • Niacinamide
  • Nicorandil