Should I continue or discontinue angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEIs) or angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) in my patients with possible Coronavirus/Covid-19 infection?

The original reports of an association between hypertension and increased risk of mortality in hospitalized patients with Covid-19 infection raised concern over the potential deleterious role of ACEIs or ARBs in such patients.1-4 However, as stated by a joint statement of several cardiology societies, including the American Heart Association, American College of Cardiology and the European Society of Cardiology on March 13, 2020, there is no clinical or scientific evidence that ACEI or ARBS should be routinely discontinued in patients with Covid-19 infection.5

In fact, some have argued for the opposite ie, consideration for the use of ARBs, such as losartan (an angiotensin receptor 1 [AT1R] antagonist), in patients with Covid-19.6,7  Although it is true that Covid-19 appears to use ACE2 as a binding site to infect cells (just as in SARS) and that ACE2 may be upregulated in patients on chronic ACEI or ARBs,8,9 ACE2 may also potentially protect against severe lung injury associated with infections.10,11  

Two complementary mechanisms have been posited for the potential protective effect of ARBs in Covid-19 infection-related lung injury: 1. Blocking the excessive AT1R activation caused by the viral infection; and 2. Upregulation of ACE2, thereby reducing production of angiotensin II and increasing the production of the vasodilator angiotensin 1-7.7

In the absence of proper clinical studies, it is premature, however, to recommend use of losartan or other AT1R antagonists as a means of reducing the likelihood of ARDS in patients with Covid-19 at this time.

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that ARDS is a major cause of death in Covid-19 infection?12

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  1. Guan W, Ni Z, Hu Y, et al. Clinical characteristics of coronavirus disease 2019 in China. N Engl J Med 2020, March 6.
  2. O’Mara GJ. Could ACE inhibitors, and particularly ARBs, increase susceptibility to COVID-19 infection? BMJ 2020;368:m406 ARTICLE
  3. Sommerstein R, Grani C. Preventing a Covid-19 pandemic: ACE inhibitors as a potential risk factor for fatal Covid-19. BMJ2020;368:m810.
  4. Li X, Geng M, Peng Y, et al. Molecular immune pathogenesis and diagnosis of COVID-19. Journal of Pharmaceutical Analysis 2020, doi htps://
  5. Cardiology societies recommend patients taking ACE inhibitors, ARBs who contract COVID-19 should continue treatment. March 17, 2020.
  6. Gurwitz D. Angiotensin receptor blockers as tentative SARS-CoV-2 therapeutics. Drug Dev Res 2020;1-4.
  7. Phadke M, Saunik S. Response to the emerging novel coronavirus outbreak. BMJ 2020;368:m406.
  8. Zheng YY, Ma YT, Zhang JY, et al. COVID-19 and the cardiovascular system. Nature Reviews/Cardiology 2020; .
  9. Ferrario CM, Jessup J, Chappell MC, et al. Effect of angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibition and angiotensin II receptor blockers on cardiac angiotensin-converting enzyme 2. Circulation 2005;111:2605-2610.
  10. Kuba K, Imai Y, Rao S, et al. A crucial role of angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) in SARS coronavirus-induced lung injury. Nature Medicine 2005;11:875-79. Doi:10.1038/nm1267
  11. Tikellis C, Thomas MC. Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) is a key modulator of the renin angiotensin system in health and disease. International Journal of Peptides. Volume 2012, Article ID 256294, 8 pages. Doi:10.1155/2012/256294.

12 . Huang C, Wang Y, Li X, et al. Clinical features of patients infected with 2019 novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China. Lancet 2020.


Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Catalyst, Harvard University, its affiliate academic healthcare centers, or its contributors. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

Should I continue or discontinue angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEIs) or angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) in my patients with possible Coronavirus/Covid-19 infection?