May 5 (UPI) -- Certain high blood pressure medications have been linked with more serious illness from COVID-19, but they don't increase a person's risk for getting the disease, a new study published Tuesday by JAMA Cardiology reports.
The analysis found that people taking angiotensin-converting enzyme, or ACE, inhibitors or angiotensin II receptor blockers, or ARBs, were not any more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19 than those not on these drugs.
Based on these findings, people should continue treatment with the drugs during the pandemic, the authors said.
"Chronic prescription of either ACEI or ARB does not predispose to getting infected with COVID-19," Dr. Ankur Kalra, an assistant professor of medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, told UPI.
"ACE inhibitors and ARBs are very commonly prescribed medications and our data provide satisfactory evidence that they can be continued safely during the COVID-19 pandemic," he added.
ACE inhibitors and ARBs are prescription medications used to treat high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes-related kidney failure, among other conditions.
The drugs are widely used, as at least 80 million Americans -- one-fourth of the population -- have one or more of these conditions, and more 200 million prescriptions for the drugs are dispensed each year.
For the research, Kalra and colleagues reviewed data on more than 18,000 Cleveland Clinic patients in Ohio and Florida, covering the period between March 8 and April 12 -- roughly the time the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States began to take hold. Of the participants, just over 12 percent were on either ACE inhibitors or ARBs.
Among those tested for the disease caused by the new coronavirus, just over 9 percent were positive, whether or not they were taking prescription ACE inhibitors and ARBs, the authors found. In all, 24 percent of the study participants positive for COVID-19 required hospitalization, 9 percent were admitted to the intensive care unit and 6 percent needed mechanical ventilation to breathe.
While Kalra noted that the researchers are still analyzing the data for evidence that COVID-19 prognosis is impacted by the drugs, he also cited a study published last week by the New England Journal of Medicine, which found that "ACE inhibitors were not associated with severe form of COVID-19."