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


Medication for high blood pressure could improve survival rates for those 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 U.K. and published Monday in the journal Current Atherosclerosis Reports, a bimonthly peer-reviewed medical journal.

The researchers studied 28,000 patients taking antihypertensives — a class of drugs that are used to treat hypertension (high blood pressure) — and said the risk of death and a severe response to coronavirus infection was reduced for patients with high blood pressure who were taking Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme inhibitors (ACEi) or Angiotensin Receptor Blockers (ARB).

‘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.’

— Lead researcher Dr. Vassilios Vassiliou, senior clinical lecturer in cardiovascular medicine at the University of East Anglia

“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,” said lead researcher Dr. Vassilios Vassiliou, senior clinical lecturer in cardiovascular medicine at the University of East Anglia’s Norwich Medical School, adding that people with cardiovascular issues were at more risk.

One important note of caution: Vassiliou cautioned that his team are NOT recommending that people with COVID-19 start taking these medications, even if they have high blood pressure. “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 said.

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

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

“We wanted to find out what the impact of these medications is for people with COVID-19,” Vassiliou said. “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.”

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

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“A third of COVID-19 patients with high blood pressure and a quarter of patients overall were taking an ACEi/ARBs,” he said. “This is likely due to the increasing risk of infection in patients with co-morbidities such as cardiovascular diseases, hypertension and diabetes. We showed was that there is no evidence that these medications might increase the severity of COVID-19 or risk of death.”

Coronavirus update:As of Monday, COVID-19 has now killed at least 810,087 people worldwide. The U.S. has the world’s highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases (5,730,294) and deaths (177,065). Worldwide, confirmed cases are now at 23,522,806, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University, which does not, for the most part, account for asymptomatic cases.

The Dow Jones Industrial Index
the S&P 500

and the Nasdaq Composite

ended higher Monday. Last week, the Federal Reserve minutes urged Congress for more pandemic aid, underscoring the challenge to the country’s economic recovery as the world anxiously awaits a COVID-19 vaccine.

in combination with Oxford University; BioNTech SE

and partner Pfizer

; GlaxoSmithKline

Johnson & Johnson

; Merck & Co.

; Moderna

; and Sanofi

are among those currently working toward COVID-19 vaccines.

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