Cough and angiotensin II receptor antagonists: cause or confounding?

Br J Clin Pharmacol. 1999 Jan;47(1):111-4. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2125.1999.00855.x.


Aims: Cough is one of the most frequent side effects associated with angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEIs) but is not thought to be associated with losartan, an angiotensin II receptor antagonist (ARA). This study compares reports of cough with losartan and three ACEIs used in general practice.

Methods: Studies have been conducted for losartan, and three ACEIs enalapril, lisinopril and perindopril, using the technique of Prescription-Event Monitoring. Patients were identified using dispensed prescription data. Questionnaires were sent to patients' general practitioners 6 months after the date of first prescription. Cases of cough within the first 60 days of treatment with losartan resulting in withdrawal of the drug were followed up with additional questionnaires. Incidence rates for reports of cough were calculated. In order to reduce the impact of carry-over effects, rate ratios were calculated for first reports of cough between days 8 and 60 using losartan as the index drug.

Results: The cohort for each drug exceeded 9000 patients. Age and sex distributions and indications for prescribing the four drugs were similar. Cough was the most frequent reason for discontinuation of losartan and the most frequently reported event in the first month of treatment with this drug. When reports of cough between days 1-7 were excluded, rates of cough were significantly higher for the three ACEIs when compared with losartan (rate ratios 1.5, 4.8 and 5.7, all P<0.03). 101 patients had discontinued losartan due to cough. 91% of these had previously been prescribed an ACEI and 86% had previously experienced ACEI cough.

Conclusions: Carry-over accounted for the observed excess of reports of cough with losartan. Rates of cough between days 8 and 60 were significantly higher for the three ACEIs compared with losartan. Confounding factors associated with comparative observational cohort studies are discussed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors / adverse effects*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Cough / etiology*
  • Data Collection
  • Drug Monitoring / methods
  • Enalapril / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Indoles / adverse effects
  • Lisinopril / adverse effects
  • Losartan / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Perindopril


  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Indoles
  • Enalapril
  • Lisinopril
  • Losartan
  • Perindopril