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The association of COVID-19 occurrence and severity with the use of angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors or angiotensin-II receptor blockers in patients with hypertension.

Li M, Wang Y, Ndiwane N, Orner MB, Palacios N, Mittler B, Berlowitz D, Kazis LE, Xia W. The association of COVID-19 occurrence and severity with the use of angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors or angiotensin-II receptor blockers in patients with hypertension. PLoS ONE. 2021 Mar 18; 16(3):e0248652.

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BACKGROUND: A number of studies have reported the association between the use of angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor (ACEI) and angiotensin-II receptor blocker (ARB) medications and the occurrence or severity of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Published results are inconclusive, possibly due to differences in participant comorbidities and sociodemographic backgrounds. Since ACEI and ARB are frequently used anti-hypertension medications, we aim to determine whether the use of ACEI and ARB is associated with the occurrence and severity of COVID-19 in a large study of US Veterans with hypertension. METHODS: Data were collected from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) National Corporate Data Warehouse (VA-COVID-19 Shared Data Resource) between February 28, 2020 and August 18, 2020. Using data from 228,722 Veterans with a history of hypertension who received COVID-19 testing at the VA, we investigated whether the use of ACEI or ARB over the two years prior to the index date was associated with increased odds of (1) a positive COVID-19 test, and (2) a severe outcome (hospitalization, mortality, and use of intensive care unit (ICU) and/or mechanical ventilation) among COVID-19-positive patients. We used logistic regression with and without propensity score weighting (PSW) to estimate the odds ratio (OR) and 95% confidence interval (95% CI) for the association between ACEI/ARB use and a positive COVID-19 test result. The association between medication use and COVID-19 outcome severity was examined using multinomial logistic regression comparing participants who were not hospitalized to participants who were hospitalized, were admitted to the ICU, used a mechanical ventilator, or died. All models were adjusted for relevant covariates, including demographics (age, sex, race, ethnicity), selected comorbidities, and the Charlson Comorbidity Index (CCI). RESULTS: The use of ACEI significantly decreased the odds of a positive COVID-19 test among Veterans with hypertension (OR = 0.917, (0.887, 0.948) and OR = 0.926, (0.894, 0.958) with PSW). The use of ACEI, but not of ARB, was also associated with significantly increased odds of using mechanical ventilators (OR = 1.265, (1.010, 1.584) and OR = 1.210, (1.053, 1.39) with PSW) among all COVID-19 inpatients compared to outpatients. CONCLUSIONS: In this study of Veterans with hypertension, ACEI was significantly associated with decreased odds of testing positive for COVID-19. With the exception of the association of ACEI with a small non-clinically-important increase in the odds of using mechanical ventilators, neither ACEI nor ARB was found to be associated with clinical severity or mortality among COVID-19-positive Veterans. The results of this study need further corroboration and validation in other cohort samples outside the VA.

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