500,000 people ‘missed starting blood pressure-lowering drugs during Covid’

According to studies, nearly half a million people in England, Scotland and Wales missed starting blood pressure-lowering medication during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Experts have warned that delays in taking medications to prevent deadly heart and circulatory diseases put thousands of people at risk of heart attack or stroke.

They said the findings, published in the journal Nature Medicine, highlight the need to diagnose and treat people so they can avoid developing life-threatening conditions.

Lead author Professor Reecha Sofat, deputy director of the British Heart Foundation’s (BHF) Center for Data Science and head of clinical pharmacology for Breckenridge at the University of Liverpool, said: “Measures were necessary to prevent the spread of infection and have undoubtedly saved lives.

“The NHS has taken important and positive steps to identify people with high blood pressure as soon as possible.

“However, we need this focus to be sustained over the long term to prevent the rise in heart attacks and strokes that will contribute to an already overstressed health system.”

As part of the research sponsored by the FBiH, experts examined 1.32 billion drug records distributed to 15.8 million people between April 1, 2018 and July 31, 2021.

They found that 491,306 fewer people started taking blood pressure lowering medication than expected between March 2020 and July 2021, including 402,448 in England, 60,033 in Scotland and 28,825 in Wales.

Researchers estimate that these people’s high blood pressure, if left untreated, could lead to more than 13,500 additional cardiovascular events, including more than 2,000 heart attacks and 3,000 strokes.

They believe that identifying those who missed drug therapy within five years could reduce the total number of cardiovascular events to approximately 2,716, including 727 heart attacks and 460 strokes.

Associate medical director and consultant cardiologist at BHF, Dr. Sonya Babu-Narayan said: “Once again, we see clear evidence of the massive disruption to healthcare providers in the UK during the Covid-19 outbreak.

“But it’s not too late to limit the damage.

“These findings show how getting heart health services back on track can reduce the additional strain that untreated risk factors such as high blood pressure would otherwise put on the NHS.

“We need to make it easier and more accessible for everyone to know their numbers, especially their blood pressure and cholesterol.”

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