Popular blood pressure medicines do not put patients at greater COVID-19 risk, new study finds

A nurse takes a nasal swab sample to test for COVID-19 at a mobile testing station in a public school parking area in Compton, California. (AFP File Photo)
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Updated 13 June 2020

Popular blood pressure medicines do not put patients at greater COVID-19 risk, new study finds

  • The authors recommended that patients should not discontinue their treatment to avoid the virus

NEW YORK: New research offers reassuring evidence to hundreds of millions of people with high blood pressure that popular anti-hypertension drugs do not put them at greater risk from COVID-19 as some experts had feared.
Two blood pressure-lowering drug classes, called ACE inhibitors and ARBs, came under scrutiny after the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in April that 72% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients 65 or older had hypertension.
ACE inhibitors and ARBs are thought to trigger activity along the same biological pathways used by the COVID-19 novel coronavirus to attack the lungs.
Researchers at Oxford University had recommended some patients stop the drugs until the risks were better known, while others argued patients should stay on the medications. An expert at the Johns Hopkins Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness in Baltimore described the debate as “one of the most important clinical questions.”
The new study made publicly available on Friday found no clinically significant increased risk of either a diagnosis or hospitalization of COVID-19 with ACE or ARB use compared with other first-line drug treatments for hypertension.
The authors recommended that patients should not discontinue their treatment to avoid the virus, which has infected over 7.5 million people worldwide and killed more than 420,000.
“Our findings are quite reassuring,” said Marc Suchard, a biostatistician at the University of California, Los Angeles, who co-led the study. “Taking an ACE or an ARB is just as safe as other first-list hypertension agents in terms of your risk of contracting COVID-19.”
The study analyzed the electronic medical records of 1.1 million patients on anti-hypertension drugs from the United States and Spain and has not yet been peer reviewed.
It was part of the Observational Health Data Sciences and Informatics program (OHDSI, pronounced Odyssey) response to COVID-19, in collaboration with the US Department of Veterans Affairs, Columbia University Irving Medical Center, and SIDIAP, a Spanish health research organization.
OHDSI is an open-source collaborative research platform that conducts large-scale studies.
The findings join a growing body of evidence showing that the life-saving drugs neither increase nor reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19 or developing a severe case of the virus.
Harmony R. Reynolds, a cardiologist at New York University Grossman School of Medicine and the lead author of a study published last month in The New England Journal of Medicine, said she had been besieged by calls from worried patients.
With little research to go on, she advised them to stay on the drugs and embarked on a study with colleagues to analyze the medical records of over 12,000 COVID-19 patients at NYU’s Langone Health system. They found that those using ACE inhibitors or ARBs were no more likely to test positive than those who were not, nor was their risk of severe illness higher. The same held true for other classes of drugs — beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers and thiazide diuretics.
Separate studies of more than 12,000 patients in Spain and more than 30,000 health system beneficiaries in Italy reached similar conclusions. They were published last month in The Lancet and the New England Journal, respectively.
Another study in the New England Journal in May reported no increased risk of hospital deaths associated with ACE inhibitors. Both that study and another on hydroxychloroquine were retracted earlier this month after the co-authors said they could no longer vouch for the validity of the data they obtained from Surgisphere, a private medical record firm, however.


US passes 9 million coronavirus cases as infections spike

Updated 31 October 2020

US passes 9 million coronavirus cases as infections spike

  • On Friday the US set a record for new daily infections of more than 94,000 in 24 hours
  • More than 229,000 people have died of the virus in the US since the pandemic began

WASHINGTON: The United States passed nine million reported coronavirus cases on Friday and broke its own record for daily new infections for the second day in a row, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University, as Covid-19 surges days before the country chooses its next president.
The US, which has seen a resurgence of its outbreak since mid-October, has now notched up 9,034,295 cases, according to a real-time count by the Baltimore-based school.
On Friday the country set a record for new daily infections of more than 94,000 in 24 hours, breaking the record of 91,000 it had set just one day earlier.
With the virus spreading most rampantly in the Midwest and the South, hospitals are also filling up again, stretching the health care system just as the nation heads in to flu season.
"We are not ready for this wave," Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University school of public health, warned on ABC's Good Morning America on Thursday.

COVID-19 tally by the John Hopkins University of Medicine as of October 30, 2020.

Authorities in El Paso, Texas, imposed a curfew this week to protect "overwhelmed" health care workers and began setting up field hospitals.
But a judge's attempt to shut down non-essential businesses in the city has been challenged by the mayor and the state's attorney general, the Washington Post reported.
Midwestern state Wisconsin has also set up a field hospital in recent weeks, and hospital workers in Missouri were sounding warning bells as cases rise.
Hospitals in the western state of Utah were preparing to ration care by as early as next week as patients flood their ICUs, according to local media.
The pattern of the pandemic so far shows that hospitalizations usually begin to rise several weeks after infections, and deaths a few weeks after that.
More than 229,000 people have died of the virus in the US since the pandemic began, the Hopkins tally showed as of Friday, with the daily number of deaths creeping steadily upwards in recent weeks also -- though at present it remains below peak levels.
For months public health officials have been warning of a surge in cases as cooler fall weather settles over the US, driving more people indoors.
As the weather changes, New York and other parts of the northeast, which were the epicenter of the US outbreak in the spring but largely controlled the virus over the summer, were reporting a worrying rise.
Some epidemiologists believe that Covid-19 spreads more easily in drier, cool air.
Rural areas, which in the spring appeared to be getting off lightly compared to crowded cities, were also facing spikes with states like North Dakota charting one of the steepest rises in recent weeks.
The state is so overwhelmed that earlier this month it told residents they have to do their own contact tracing, local media reported.
With four days to go until the election, Donald Trump was battling to hold on to the White House against challenger Joe Biden, who has slammed the president's virus response.
"It is as severe an indictment of a president's record as one can possibly imagine, and it is utterly disqualifying," Biden said Friday as the toll passed nine million.
Trump downplays the virus even as the toll has been accelerating once more, holding a slew of rallies with little social distancing or mask use.
He has repeatedly told supporters that the country is "rounding the curve" on Covid infections.
But Americans, wary of crowded polling booths on Election Day as the virus spreads, are voting early in record numbers.