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Patients should not stop taking medications over coronavirus fears

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, social media is increasingly flooded with false information about the virus. For example, rumors are spreading that patients who are taking medications known as angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) have an increased susceptibility to coronavirus infection.

Hundreds of millions of people depend on ARBs to treat conditions such as congestive heart failure, chronic kidney disease, and hypertension. By giving up these important medications to protect themselves from coronavirus, patients are critically endangering their health.

After carefully reviewing all relevant data, a team of experts has determined that there is not enough consistent evidence to support the theory that ARBs pose a significant coronavirus risk.

Dr. Murray Epstein, an emeritus professor at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, participated in the study. Dr. Epstein edits a medical textbook that is exclusively focused on ARBs.

“The only thing we can conclude definitively, based on all the known data, is that there is no credible evidence whatsoever that ARBs enhance susceptibility to COVID,” said Dr. Epstein.

The concerns about ARBs originally stemmed from reports that the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE 2) protein receptor may facilitate coronavirus entry into cells. While there are some studies based on animal models which indicated ACE 2 activity may be elevated by ARBs, other studies failed to corroborate these results.

“People are making an unadvised leap,” said Dr. Epstein. “The logic goes that, if it enhances penetrability, it enhances susceptibility to the disease, but that’s a dangerous conclusion. What investigators have found varies widely, depending on the organ studied, the experimental animal model and the ARB being used in the study. In summary, there is a complete lack of consistency.”

Dr. Epstein warns that there are serious risks for patients who stop taking ARBs over COVID-19 fears, ranging from heart attacks and strokes to kidney failure.

“This would be a double tragedy, because it would be happening precisely at a time when our hospital and ICU resources are stressed to the limit,” said Dr. Epstein. “It will further tax our medical facilities and hospitals, and it will be truly tragic.”

The research is published by the American Heart Association in an article written for the journal Hypertension.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer


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