Researchers said that blood pressure medications belonging to the ACE inhibitor and ARB classes don’t increase the risk of COVID-19 infection or make COVID-19 infections more serious.
Common ACE inhibitors include captopril and lisinopril and common ARBs include valsartan and losartan.
Researchers had earlier suggested that these medications could increase the risk of serious COVID-19 symptoms. However, a study published today “found no substantial increase in the likelihood of a positive test for COVID-19 or in the risk of severe COVID-19” in patients taking these drugs. A study from China published last week came to a similar conclusion.
The U.S. study also found that three other classes of blood pressure medications – thiazide diuretics, calcium-channel blockers and beta blockers – also had no increased COVID-19-related risk attached to their use.
Both studies were based on patient record reviews. Studies like these do not provide as strong of evidence as controlled clinical trials. Controlled clinical trials involve some patients receiving a medication and other patients in a “control group” not receiving that medication.
The study involved analyzing the medical records of 12,594 people tested for COVID-19. 5,894 of those patients tested positive. The study’s researchers used statistical methods to rule out any differences caused by sex, age, ethnicity, race, smoking history and other factors. No statistically significant differences emerged between patients taking blood pressure medications and patients not taking blood pressure medications.
Previous research had raised concerns about blood pressure medications and COVID-19 because it found that high blood pressure was the most common pre-existing condition among severely-ill COVID-19 patients. SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19, infects people by binding to ACE2 receptors. Researchers theorized that ACE inhibitors and ARB drugs could cause more severe COVID-19 symptoms because they increase the number of ACE2 receptors on human cells.
Valsartan and losartan made headlines last year when medications containing the drugs were recalled due to carcinogen contamination concerns. Medications containing valsartan or losartan were found to be contaminated with NDEA and/or NDMA. NDEA is classified by the World Health Organization as a Group 2A carcinogen and is found in tobacco smoke. It is used in cancer research for the purpose of creating liver tumors. NDMA is classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a probable carcinogen and is sometimes given to rats to induce cancer in the rats which scientists can then study.