0337 GMT October 22, 2020
The risk of critical illness or death from COVID-19 for people with high blood pressure was found to be significantly lower if they were taking angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEi) or angiotensin receptor blockers (ARB), theguardian.com reported.
Researchers from the Norwich Medical School at the University of East Anglia (UEA) looked at the effect of taking the common medications on coronavirus patients with a range of conditions.
Those with high blood pressure — a group known to be at greater risk from the illness — who were taking the drugs were 0.67 times less likely to have a critical or fatal outcome than those who were not, the study concluded.
For people taking the same medications for other conditions including heart and kidney failure, diabetes and strokes, their COVID-19 outcome was neither worse nor better.
“As the world braces itself for a potential second wave of the infection, it is particularly important that we understand the impact that these medications have in COVID-19 patients,” said the lead researcher, Dr. Vassilios Vassiliou. “Our research provides substantial evidence to recommend continued use of these medications if the patients were taking them already.”
The finding added to rapidly growing medical expertise in treating the illness, eight months on from the declaration of a pandemic. Last month a trial of a therapy involving a protein being inhaled directly into the lungs of patients with coronavirus found it cut the likelihood of becoming severely ill — such as requiring ventilation — by 79 percent.
High blood pressure, which affects around one in four UK adults, appears to lower a person’s chances of surviving COVID-19. A study last month found it was the most common condition found in patients taken to hospital with the disease, followed by a history of falls, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and asthma.
The UEA research was prompted by research from hospitals in Wuhan and other Chinese cities at the start of the pandemic suggesting that specific medications for high blood pressure could be linked with worse outcomes for COVID-19 patients.
There was concern that the drugs could facilitate the entry of the coronavirus into cells, helping it take hold in lung tissue. This caused many patients to unilaterally stop using them.
UEA collaborated with the Norfolk and Norwich university hospital to analyze 19 studies involving a total of nearly 29,000 patients.
“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,” said Vassiliou. “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.”
There is no evidence as yet that the same effect would be seen in people without high blood pressure.