NORWICH, United Kingdom — The coronavirus pandemic is causing extra concern for many people with high blood pressure and heart disease. Though these patients are at higher risk, a new study reveals their medications may be doing more good than realized. British researchers find patients taking antihypertensives are at “significantly lower risk” of ending up on a ventilator or dying from COVID-19.
The University of East Anglia says Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme inhibitors (ACEi) and Angiotensin Receptor Blockers (ARB) both reduce the chances of a severe COVID-19 illness in patients with high blood pressure. The findings look at 28,000 patients taking antihypertensives in the largest, coronavirus-related study to date.
“We know that patients with cardiovascular diseases are at particular risk of severe Covid-19 infection. But at the start of the pandemic, there was concern that specific medications for high blood pressure could be linked with worse outcomes for Covid-19 patients,” Dr. Vassilios Vassiliou says in a university release.
“On the contrary, we found that there was a significantly lower risk of death and critical outcomes, so they might in fact have a protective role – particularly in patients with hypertension.”
Good news for high blood pressure patients during pandemic
The study compares COVID-19 patients taking ACEi and ARB medications to those not taking them. Researchers focus on those taken to intensive care units, placed on ventilators, and fatalities during the pandemic.
Vassiliou reveals that a third of coronavirus patients with high blood pressure and a quarter of all patients are on ACEi or ARBs. These patients suffer from a number of conditions including cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes. Their risk of COVID-19 infection is high.
“The really important thing that we showed was that there is no evidence that these medications might increase the severity of COVID-19 or risk of death,” the lead researcher explains. “COVID-19 patients with high blood pressure who were taking ACEi/ARB medications were 0.67 times less likely to have a critical or fatal outcome than those not taking these medications.”
Study authors say this is a major revelation that could provide good news for high blood pressure patients if there is a second wave in the pandemic.
“Our research provides substantial evidence to recommend continued use of these medications if the patients were taking them already,” Vassiliou adds. “However, we are not able to address whether starting such tablets acutely in patients with Covid-19 might improve their prognosis, as the mechanism of action might be different.”
The study is published in Current Atherosclerosis Reports