Background: Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEIs) may positively or negatively impact outcomes in severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection. We investigated the association of ARB or ACEI use with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)-related outcomes in US Veterans with treated hypertension using an active comparator design, appropriate covariate adjustment, and negative control analyses.
Methods and findings: In this retrospective cohort study of Veterans with treated hypertension in the Veterans Health Administration (01/19/2020-08/28/2020), we compared users of (A) ARB/ACEI vs. non-ARB/ACEI (excluding Veterans with compelling indications to reduce confounding by indication) and (B) ARB vs. ACEI among (1) SARS-CoV-2+ outpatients and (2) COVID-19 hospitalized inpatients. The primary outcome was all-cause hospitalization or mortality (outpatients) and all-cause mortality (inpatients). We estimated hazard ratios (HR) using propensity score-weighted Cox regression. Baseline characteristics were well-balanced between exposure groups after weighting. Among outpatients, there were 5.0 and 6.0 primary outcomes per 100 person-months for ARB/ACEI (n = 2,482) vs. non-ARB/ACEI (n = 2,487) users (HR 0.85, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.73-0.99, median follow-up 87 days). Among outpatients who were ARB (n = 4,877) vs. ACEI (n = 8,704) users, there were 13.2 and 14.8 primary outcomes per 100 person-months (HR 0.91, 95%CI 0.86-0.97, median follow-up 85 days). Among inpatients who were ARB/ACEI (n = 210) vs. non-ARB/ACEI (n = 275) users, there were 3.4 and 2.0 all-cause deaths per 100 person months (HR 1.25, 95%CI 0.30-5.13, median follow-up 30 days). Among inpatients, ARB (n = 1,164) and ACEI (n = 2,014) users had 21.0 vs. 17.7 all-cause deaths, per 100 person-months (HR 1.13, 95%CI 0.93-1.38, median follow-up 30 days).
Conclusions: This observational analysis supports continued ARB or ACEI use for patients already using these medications before SARS-CoV-2 infection. The novel beneficial association observed among outpatients between users of ARBs vs. ACEIs on hospitalization or mortality should be confirmed with randomized trials.