Heart medications and COVID-19: what health professionals need to know

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COVID-19 heart medication
The Heart Foundation is aware of concerns about a possible link between ACE inhibitor medications (angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors) and ARBs (angiotensin receptor blockers) and increased risk of infection with COVID-19 and worsened outcomes.

At this stage, the Heart Foundation recommends that the routine use of ARB and ACE inhibitor medications should continue in the treatment of hypertension, heart failure, secondary prevention of acute coronary syndrome and other chronic conditions. 

Heart Foundation Chief Medical Adviser, cardiologist Professor Garry Jennings said:

“The suggested link between COVID-19 and ARBs and ACE inhibitors is based on the observation that these antihypertensives increase levels of the ACE2 enzyme in the body, the same enzyme that the SARS coronavirus uses to infect the body.

“We want to highlight that at this stage, there is no clinical data from people infected with the COVID-19 virus to confirm this theory.

“Given the lack of clinical evidence at this stage, and the known benefits of ARB and ACE inhibitor medications, the Heart Foundation is advising patients continue to take all their medications, including ARBs or ACE inhibitors, as prescribed by their doctor.”

Professor Jennings said it’s understandable and important for both patients and health professionals to be concerned when there are reports about possible harms from medications, but stopping these medications abruptly can do more harm than good.

“There is the potential for serious harm if people stop taking their ARB and ACE inhibitor medications.

"These medications have demonstrated substantial benefits in reducing risk of death, cardiovascular events and hospitalisations in the secondary prevention of acute coronary syndromes and the treatment of hypertension, heart failure, and other chronic conditions.

“Further research into the relationships between specific medicines and COVID-19 is ongoing.”

The Heart Foundation recommends Australians stay up to date with the latest information about COVID-19 by monitoring the Department of Health website or by contacting  the National Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080