A BLOOD pressure drug taken by millions of people across the UK could slash the risk of dying from the coronavirus by a third, experts have found.
Experts have now said they need to understand how antihypertensives can be used as the world “braces itself for a potential second wave of the virus”.
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Researchers at the University of East Anglia studied 28,000 patients taking drugs used to treat hypertension, also known as high blood pressure and found that it slashed their risk of dying by a third.
They found that these patients were less likely to develop severe Covid-19.
The risk of death was also reduced for those who were taking Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme inhibitors (ACEi) or Angiotensin Receptor Blockers (ARB).
Lead researcher Dr Vassilios Vassiliou, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School said it was already clear at the start of the pandemic that patients with cardiovascular conditions were at risk of developing severe coronavirus infections.
He added: “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.”
Dr Vassilious said the team wanted to find out what the impact of these medications was for people with the coronavirus.
As the world braces itself for a potential second wave of the infection, it is particularly important that we understand the impact that these medications have in Covid-19 patients
The team studied the outcomes for patients taking blood pressure drugs.
They focused on critical outcomes, which included a patient being admitted to intensive care, a patient requiring ventilation, or death.
They then compared these findings with coronavirus patients who were not prescribed the drugs.
The team looked at data from 19 studies relating to Covid-19 and the blood pressure drugs and claim it is the biggest study to date.
The study was published in the journal of Current Atherosclerosis Reports.
Dr Vassiliou said that the team found that a third of Covid patients with high blood pressure and a quarter of patients overall had been taking the drugs.
He added: “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.
“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.
“As the world braces itself for a potential second wave of the infection, it is particularly important that we understand the impact that these medications have in Covid-19 patients.”
He added that the research shows that these drugs should continue to be used for patients already taking them.
“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,” he added.
Experts have also said that this provides reassurance to patients who were already on the drugs that they should continue to take them.
Prof Stephen Evans, Professor of Pharmacoepidemiology, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “There were early concerns that the coronavirus SARS COV-2 might have a greater impact in those who take these drugs for raised blood pressure, because of the mechanism of action of the virus.
“Covid-19 is not the only disease that older people will die of during a pandemic and the benefits of the drugs on other, non-Covid-19, outcomes may be important.”
“We do not yet understand how the SARS COV-2 virus is affected by these drugs, so caution should definitely be exercised before recommending their use for prevention of bad outcomes in Covid-19”, he added.