Insights into the association of ACEIs/ARBs use and COVID-19 prognosis: a multistate modelling study of nationwide hospital surveillance data from Belgium

José L Peñalvo, Els Genbrugge, Elly Mertens, Diana Sagastume, Marianne A B van der Sande, Marc-Alain Widdowson, Dominique Van Beckhoven

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OBJECTIVES: The widespread use of angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEIs) and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) by patients with chronic conditions raised early concerns on the potential exacerbation of COVID-19 severity and fatality. Previous studies addressing this question have used standard methods that may lead to biased estimates when analysing hospital data because of the presence of competing events and event-related dependency. We investigated the association of ACEIs/ARBs' use with COVID-19 disease outcomes using time-to-event data in a multistate setting to account for competing events and minimise bias.

SETTING: Nationwide surveillance data from 119 Belgian hospitals.

PARTICIPANTS: Medical records of 10 866 patients hospitalised from 14 March 2020to 14 June 2020 with a confirmed SARS-CoV-19 infection and information about ACEIs/ARBs' use.

PRIMARY OUTCOME MEASURE: Multistate, multivariate Cox-Markov models were used to estimate the hazards of patients transitioning through health states from admission to discharge or death, along with transition probabilities calculated by combining the baseline cumulative hazard and regression coefficients.

RESULTS: After accounting for potential confounders, there was no discernable association between ACEIs/ARBs' use and transfer to intensive care unit (ICU). Contrastingly, for patients without ICU transfer, ACEIs/ARBs' use was associated with a modest increase in recovery (HR 1.07, 95% CI 1.01 to 1.13, p=0.027) and reduction in fatality (HR 0.83, 95% CI 0.75 to 0.93, p=0.001) transitions. For patients transferred to ICU admission, no evidence of an association between ACEIs/ARBs' use and recovery (HR 1.16, 95% CI 0.97 to 1.38, p=0.098) or in-hospital death (HR 0.91, 95% CI 0.73 to 1.12, p=0.381) was observed. Male gender and older age were significantly associated with higher risk of ICU admission or death. Chronic cardiometabolic comorbidities were also associated with less recovery.

CONCLUSIONS: For the first time, a multistate model was used to address magnitude and direction of the association of ACEIs/ARBs' use on COVID-19 progression. By minimising bias, this study provided a robust indication of a protective, although modest, association with recovery and survival.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere053393
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number9
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Aged
  • Angiotensin Receptor Antagonists
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors/therapeutic use
  • Belgium/epidemiology
  • COVID-19
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Hypertension
  • Male
  • SARS-CoV-2


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