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Nitric oxide (NO) is an important mediator in both health and disease. In addition to its effects on vascular tone and platelet function, it plays roles in inflammation and pain perception that may be of relevance in osteoarthritis. Many patients with osteoarthritis take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) long term for pain control. Over recent years concern has been raised about the possible cardiovascular side effects of NSAIDs. The reasons for this possible increased cardiovascular risk with NSAIDs are not yet entirely clear, although changes in blood pressure, renal salt handling and platelet function may contribute. Recently, drugs that chemically link a NSAID with a NO donating moiety (cyclo-oxygenase-inhibiting NO-donating drugs [CINODs]) were developed. NO is an important mediator of endothelial function, acting as a vasodilator and an inhibitor of platelet aggregation, and having anti-inflammatory properties. The potential benefits of CINODs include the combination of effective analgesic and anti-inflammatory actions with NO release, which might counterbalance any adverse cardiovascular effects of NSAIDs. Effects of CINODs in animal studies include inhibition of vasopressor responses, blood pressure reduction in hypertensive rats and inhibition of platelet aggregation. CINODs may also reduce ischemic damage to compromised myocardial tissue. In addition, endothelial dysfunction is a recognized feature of inflammatory arthritides, and therefore a drug that might provide slow release of NO to the vasculature while treating pain is an attractive prospect in these conditions. Further studies of the effects of CINODs in humans are required, but these agents represent a potential exciting advance in the management of osteoarthritis.