UTHealth physicians investigate blood pressure drug's effect on improving COVID-19 outcomes

An interventional therapy aimed at improving survival chances and reducing the need for critical care treatment due to COVID-19 is being investigated by physicians at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). The clinical trial is underway at Memorial Hermann and Harris Health System's Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital.

The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study is evaluating the effectiveness of the drug ramipril, an angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor approved to treat high blood pressure, heart failure, and diabetic kidney disease.

The yearlong trial aims to enroll up to 560 patients across the nation with COVID-19. A positive COVID-19 test is required before the medication is administered.

Our goal is to study the ability of this drug to prevent patients who have COVID-19 from getting sicker. So few treatment options exist for this novel virus, and we as medical researchers feel it is our duty to continue to search for a treatment to improve the health outcomes for people with COVID-19."

Jordan E. Lake, MD, MSc, lead investigator at UTHealth and associate professor of infectious diseases at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth

ACE inhibitors work by suppressing angiotensin II, a hormone that mediates tissue injury but can also lead to high blood pressure due to constriction of the blood vessels. These medications cause the blood vessels to relax and expand, allowing blood to flow easier and reducing blood pressure.

Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) is a protein found on the surface of many cells in the body, mainly within the heart, lungs, nasal passage, and digestive tract. Research has revealed it is the entry point to the cell for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Experts are investigating whether ACE inhibitors can reduce the severity of COVID-19 by ensuring the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS) functions properly. RAAS is the hormone system responsible for regulating blood pressure, electrolyte and fluid balance, and overall circulatory system flow.

Patients who are enrolled will receive either a 2.5 mg dose of ramipril or a placebo in capsule form taken once a day for two weeks.

The primary outcome of the trial is to measure the drug's efficiency at reducing mortality, as well as admission to the intensive care unit or the need to be intubated within the 14-day window.

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