Blood pressure medication could increase the survival rate for Covid-19 patients and reduce the severity of the infection, according to new research from the University of East Anglia (UEA) in collaboration with the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

Researchers studied 28,000 patients taking antihypertensives – a class of drugs that are used to treat hypertension (high blood pressure).

During the study, UEA found that the risk of severe Covid-19 illness and death was reduced for patients with high blood pressure who were taking Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme inhibitors (ACEi) or Angiotensin Receptor Blockers (ARB).

Lead researcher Dr Vassilios Vassiliou, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, commented: “We know that patients with cardiovascular diseases are at particular risk of severe Covid-19 infection. 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 Vassiliou continued, saying that during the research they “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”.

The researchers compared data from Covid-19 patients who were taking ACEi or ARB medications with those who were not focusing on whether the subjects had experienced ‘critical’ events (admission to intensive care and invasive or non-invasive ventilation) and death. Dr Vassiliou said 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”.

The researchers hope that the study “provides substantial evidence” to recommend the continued use of these medications if the patients are taking them already. Finally, Dr Vassiliou said that while the drug seems to reduce the rate for those already taking them, “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. ”