A study by Oxford researchers, supported by the NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), found that ACE inhibitors and ARBs – both common treatments for high blood pressure and heart failure – are not generally linked to an increased risk of severe COVID-19 disease or an increased likelihood of being admitted to intensive care.
However, the researchers did find higher risk of severe COVID-19 disease for some BAME groups, especially Black African patients taking ACE inhibitors. The study was published as an open access paper in the BMJ Heart journal.
Angiotensive enzyme (ACE) inhibitor and angiotensin receptor blocker (ARB) are common heart medications to treat heart failure and high blood pressure, and are often prescribed following a heart attack.
Prof Julia Hippisley-Cox of the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences and Prof Peter Watkinson, the Oxford BRC’s Joint Theme Lead for Technology and Digital Health led the study.
Prof Watkinson said: “There had been some uncertainty about the relationship between these common heart medications and COVID-19 disease. We set out to find out if patients prescribed these drugs had altered risks of contracting severe COVID-19 disease and of being admitted to ICU.”
This large, population-based study matched the records of 1,205 UK general practices contributing to the QResearch database with data from Public Health England and from the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre (ICNARC).
Prof Hippisley-Cox said: “We examined the drug histories of around 20% of all patients in England who tested positive for coronavirus, to see if there was an independent association between ACE inhibitor or ARB drug prescription and severe COVID-19 disease susceptibility and progression.
“We found overall ACE inhibitors and ARBs were associated with a reduced risk of severe COVID-19 disease, but not associated with the risk of needing admission to an Intensive Care Unit. However, our findings varied by ethnicity. For Black African groups, taking ACE inhibitors was associated with an increased risk of severe COVID-19 disease.”
She added: “This variation between different ethnic groups raises the possibility of specific effects of these drugs on susceptibility to COVID-19 among certain groups and on the severity of the disease, and this deserves further study.”