Medication for high blood pressure could improve Covid-19 survival rates and reduce the severity of infection in patients with high blood pressure, a new study suggests.
Researchers studied 28,000 patients taking antihypertensives, a class of drugs that are used to treat hypertension (high blood pressure).
They found that the risk of severe Covid-19 illness and death was reduced for patients with high blood pressure who were taking Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme inhibitors (ACEi) or Angiotensin Receptor Blockers (ARB).
According to the study published in Current Atherosclerosis Reports, Covid-19 patients with high blood pressure who were taking the medications were 0.67 times less likely to have a critical or fatal outcome than those who were not.
Lead researcher Dr Vassilios Vassiliou, from the University of East Anglia’s Norwich Medical School, said: “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.
“We wanted to find out what the impact of these medications is for people with Covid-19.”
Researchers analysed data from 19 studies, involving more than 28,000 patients, related to Covid-19 and ACEi and ARB medications.
They compared data from Covid-19 patients who were taking the medications with those who were not.
The study focused on whether they experienced critical events – admission to intensive care and invasive or non-invasive ventilation – and death.
Dr Vassiliou said: “We found that a third of Covid-19 patients with high blood pressure and a quarter of patients overall were taking an ACEi/ARBs.
“This is likely due to the increasing risk of infection in patients with co-morbidities such as cardiovascular diseases, hypertension and diabetes.
“But 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.
“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.
“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.”
He added that as the world braces for a second wave of the virus it is important to understand the impact that these medications have in Covid-19 patients.
“Our research provides substantial evidence to recommend continued use of these medications if the patients were taking them already,” said Dr Vassiliou.
But he highlighted they were not able to address whether starting such tablets acutely in patients with Covid-19 might improve their prognosis.
The researchers say that limitations of their study include that there is insufficient data to compare these analyses to a control population.
They conclude that while their meta-analysis demonstrated no association between the use of ACEi/ARB and the severity and mortality among patients admitted with Covid-19, it found evidence of beneficial effects in the hypertensive cohort.