New Delhi: Looking to settle a raging controversy, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has said there is “no evidence” of anti-diabetes and hypertension drugs increasing patients’ “susceptibility or severity” to coronavirus. It also urged such patients not to stop their medication.
The India’s apex research body made the statement Thursday, in frequently asked questions (FAQs), as several international experts have continuously claimed over the last few days that these drugs raise the possibility of coronavirus infection among diabetics and hypertension patients.
The drugs in question — angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) — are consumed by millions of Indians. Heart diseases are considered to be one of the main causes for deaths in India whereas the country ranks second in diabetes incidence, with an estimated 7.7 crore diabetics here.
What ICMR said
The ICMR said it has come to the conclusion about the drugs “after review of the available information and deriving the consensus of various scientific societies and expert groups of cardiologists”.
In its statement, the ICMR listed that the drugs in ACE inhibitors include Ramipril, Enalapril, among others, whereas ARBs include Losartan and Telmisartan, and asked patients on these medications to not discontinue them.
The government agency, which is at the forefront of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, has warned people not to stop these medications based on unproven reports.
“These drugs are very effective for heart failure by supporting your heart function, and controlling high blood pressure. It may be harmful to stop these medications by yourself. This can worsen your heart condition,” it said while answering the FAQs.
The concerns raised
According to a study published in medical journal The Lancet, ACE and ARB drugs may change the shape of cells in a way that makes it easier for the virus to infect them and cause a more severe illness.
A top US immunologist handling the pandemic, Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has made similar claims.
“…based on extrapolation of available knowledge, putting a patient on an ACE inhibitor could result in an increase in the expression of the enzyme, which is to say, the person taking the drug for hypertension may be, without knowing it, increasing the reception for the virus itself,” he said.
This raised a concern across the world on whether to continue the use of commonly used anti-hypertensive drugs or stop them for a while.