Drugs taken by millions of Britons to treat high blood pressure slash the risk of dying from coronavirus by one third, research shows.
Academics found that Covid-19 patients who have been prescribed the medication were 33 per cent less likely to die or be admitted to intensive care.
But experts discovered no clear benefits for infected patients who didn’t have high blood pressure but were given angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs).
It bolsters evidence that hypertension — the medical term for high blood pressure — is a major risk factor for the potentially life-threatening disease.
More research is needed to see if the drugs, such as Ramipril and Losartan, could actually treat coronavirus in patients without high blood pressure.
More than six million people in the UK take the drugs regularly to treat high blood pressure. They are also given to heart attack survivors. Around 100million people in the US have hypertension.
Researchers at the University of East Anglia pooled data from previous studies looking at 28,872 patients in hospital with Covid-19.
One quarter of the patients were taking ACE inhibitors or ARBs, including one third of patients with high blood pressure.
The study showed that patients with high blood pressure were 33 per cent less likely to die or be placed on a ventilator if they were taking ACE inhibitors.
Experts said the findings are hugely reassuring for millions of patients on the medication.
It follows fears that ACE inhibitors may in fact worsen Covid-19 as they reduce blood pressure by increasing levels of ACE2 receptors on the surface of a patient’s cells.
Covid-19 uses the same receptor to lock on to cells and invade the body. Lead author Dr Vassilios Vassiliou suggested the drugs may reduce the risk of dying from Covid by keeping blood pressure under control and decreasing inflammation in the body.
He said: ‘We can now very conclusively say that if you are being prescribed this medication you should keep taking it and it will not increase death or critical events, in fact it could save your life.’
He added that ACE inhibitors and ARBs may also reduce the severity of coronavirus among patients who take the medication for other conditions, such as diabetes or kidney failure.
‘For patients who were taking the medication but did not have high blood pressure we could see a trend towards them having better outcomes but it didn’t reach statistical significance. We can say it was definitely not harmful.’
He added: ‘We have shown that patients who have been prescribed the medication before they got Covid are better off.
‘We do not have any evidence that if somebody got Covid-19 today and you gave them the medication they might be better off.’
The most popular versions of the drugs are Ramipril, Losartan, Lisinopril and Candesartan, according to NHS data.
Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: ‘This study, which is a collation of all the evidence to date, provides further reassurance for patients and GPs.
‘The finding that these drugs may be associated with lower risk of severe Covid-19 disease is interesting but should be treated with caution as it is not based on randomised clinical trials.’
The study, published in the Current Atherosclerosis Reports journal, is the largest and most detailed such study to date.