‘No evidence’ that blood pressure medications increase severity of Covid-19

24 Aug 2020

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Despite previous fears that high blood pressure medication could worsen the effects of Covid-19, new research recommends that this treatment can continue.

Researchers from the University of East Anglia have found that the survival rates for those living with high blood pressure diagnosed with Covid-19 is slightly higher when taking hypertension medication. This is in contrast to previous concerns that such medication could make Covid-19 outcomes worse.

In a study published to Current Atherosclerosis Reports, the researchers performed a meta-analysis of 19 studies with data on more than 28,000 patients. This analysis found that the risk of severe Covid-19 illness and death was reduced for patients taking angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEi) or angiotensin receptor blockers (ARB).

“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,” specified lead researcher Dr Vassilios Vassiliou

However, the research does not suggest that those without high blood pressure would benefit from taking this medication. Rather, this research provides evidence that continued use of these medications by hypertensive patients can be recommended.

‘There is no evidence that these medications might increase the severity of Covid-19 or risk of death’

“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,” said Vassiliou.

In fact, last June, a team of cardiologists at NUI Galway contributed to a study published in the European Heart Journal that suggested those with high blood pressure may be at a greater risk from Covid-19.

“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,” Vassiliou said.

“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.”

The patient data for the meta-analysis was obtained from studies related to Covid-19 and ACEi and ARB medications. This showed that a third of Covid-19 patients with high blood pressure and a quarter of patients overall were taking ACEi or ARB. This, the researchers said, is likely due to the increasing risk of infection in patients with co-morbidities such as cardiovascular diseases, hypertension and diabetes.

A study published last month found high blood pressure was the most common condition among those who were hospitalised with Covid-19 in the UK.

Updated, 6.24pm, 24 August 2020: This article has been amended for clarity, with additional details from the study added.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic