A common medication for older adults improves COVID-19 survival rates, say researchers

Medications for high blood pressure could improve survival rates for people suffering from COVID-19 and reduce the severity of infection, according to new research from a team of scientists at the University of East Anglia in the UK and published Monday in the Journal Current Atherosclerosis Reports, a bilingual peer-reviewed medical journal.

The researchers studied 28,000 patients taking antihypertensives – a class of drugs used to treat hypertension (high blood pressure) – and said the risk of death and a severe reaction to coronavirus infection was reduced for patients with high blood pressure using Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors (ACEi) or Angiotensin Receptor Blockers (ARBs).

‘COVID-19 high blood pressure patients taking ACEi / ARB medication were 0.67 times less likely to have a critical or fatal outcome than those not taking these medications.’

– Lead researcher Dr. Vassilios Vassiliou, Senior Clinical Lecturer in Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of East Anglia

“At the outset of the pandemic, there were concerns that specific medications for high blood pressure could be linked to worse outcomes for COVID-19 patients,” said lead researcher Dr. Vassilios Vassiliou, senior clinical lecturer in cardiovascular medicine at the University of East Anglia’s Norwich Medical School, added that people with cardiovascular problems were at greater risk.

One important note of caution: Vassiliou warned that his team does NOT recommend that people with COVID-19 start taking these medications, even if they have high blood pressure. “We are unable to address whether such tablets starting acutely in patients with COVID-19 may improve their prognosis because the mechanism of action may be different,” he said.

Nearly half of U.S. adults are at risk for major health problems due to high blood pressure, according to guidelines from the American Heart Association News. People with top readings of 130 or more and bottom readings of 80 or more are considered high blood pressure. That makes up about 46% of the population.

“The latest evidence shows that people with uncontrolled or untreated high blood pressure may be at risk of becoming seriously ill with COVID-19,” the May Clinic said. “It is also important to note that people with untreated high blood pressure are more at risk for COVID-19 complications than those whose high blood pressure is managed with medication.”

“We wanted to find out what the impact of these drugs is on people with COVID-19,” Vassiliou said. “We therefore examined the outcomes for patients taking antihypertensive drugs – and looked in particular at what we call ‘critical’ outcomes, such as being admitted to intensive care or being put on a ventilator, and death.”

His team crunched data from 19 studies related to COVID-19, and ACEi and ARB medication. The meta-analysis involved more than 28,000 patients and, said Vassiliou, is the largest and most detailed such study to date. They compared data from COVID-19 patients taking ACEi or ARB medication with those who did not take such medication.

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“One-third of COVID-19 patients with high blood pressure and a quarter of patients in general took ACEi / ARBs,” he said. “This is probably due to the increasing risk of infection in patients with co-morbidities such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension and diabetes. We have shown that there is no evidence that these drugs can increase the severity of COVID-19 risk of death. “

“COVID-19 high blood pressure patients taking ACEi / ARB medication were 0.67 times less likely to have a critical or fatal outcome than those not taking these medications,” he added. “As the world presents itself with a potential second wave of infection, it is especially important that we understand the impact these medications have on COVID-19 patients.”

Coronavirus update:As of Monday, COVID-19 has now killed at least 808,716 people worldwide. The US has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the world (5,703,561) and deaths (176,808). Worldwide, confirmed cases are now at 23,421,944, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University, which does not, for the most part, account for asymptomatic cases.

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