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Hypertension treatments could improve Covid survival rates

People with high blood pressure have a significantly better chance of surviving Covid-19 if they are taking hypertension medications, a new study has found.

Researchers from the Norwich medical school at the University of East Anglia (UEA) analysed data from a total of 19 studies involving more than 28,000 patients to assess the impact angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEi) and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) have on the severity of Covid-19 infection in hypertension patients.

The study focused on the prevalence of critical events, such as admission to intensive care and being put on mechanical ventilation, as well as death.

The researchers found that hypertension patients taking ACEi or ARBs were 0.67 times less likely to have a critical or fatal outcome than those who weren’t. However, there was no impact on Covid-19 outcomes for patients taking the same medicines for other health problems such as diabetes. 

Lead researcher Dr Vassilios Vassiliou 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.”

“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.”

Dr Vassiliou said the research “provides substantial evidence to recommend continued use of these medications if the patients were taking them already,” but added that there was not enough data to determine whether starting a patient on these drugs could improve the prognosis for acutely ill Covid-19 patients.

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