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Blood pressure drugs could help Covid-19 survival, research finds

PUBLISHED: 05:30 24 August 2020 | UPDATED: 11:26 24 August 2020

Medication for high blood pressure could reduce the severity of Covid-19, University of East Anglia research found. Picture: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Medication for high blood pressure could reduce the severity of Covid-19, University of East Anglia research found. Picture: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Drugs used to treat high blood pressure could help people survive coronavirus and cut the severity of infection, researchers from Norwich have found.

Dr Vassilios Vassiliou, from the University of East Anglia. Pic: European Society of Cardiology.Dr Vassilios Vassiliou, from the University of East Anglia. Pic: European Society of Cardiology.

University of East Anglia scientists worked with the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital for a study of 28,000 patients taking antihypertensives - drugs to combat high blood pressure.

They found the risk of severe Covid-19 illness and death was cut for patients with high blood pressure who were taking Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme inhibitors (ACEi) or Angiotensin Receptor Blockers (ARB).

Lead researcher Dr Vassilios Vassiliou, from the UEA’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.

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“We therefore studied the outcomes for patients taking antihypertensives – looking particularly at what we call ‘critical’ outcomes such as being admitted to intensive care or being put on a ventilator, and death.”

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The team analysed data from 19 studies related to Covid-19 and ACEi and ARB medications. They compared data from Covid-19 patients who were taking ACEi or ARB medications with those who were not.

Dr Vassiliou said: “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.

“As the world braces itself for a potential second wave of the infection, it is particularly important we understand the impact 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.”

“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.”

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