In a study from the University of Liverpool and elsewhere, scientists found nearly half a million people missed out on starting medication to lower their blood pressure during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The researchers say that thousands of people could suffer an avoidable heart attack or stroke due to delays in starting these vital medications known to stave off deadly heart and circulatory diseases.
In the study, the team analyzed 1.32 billion records of medications dispensed to 15.8 million people in England, Scotland, and Wales between 1 April 2018 and 31 July 2021.
They found that 491,306 fewer people than expected started taking blood pressure-lowering medication between March 2020 and the end of July 2021.
If these individuals’ high blood pressure remains untreated over their lifetime, the team estimate that this could lead to more than 13,500 additional cardiovascular events, including over 2,000 heart attacks and 3,000 strokes.
These findings highlight an important opportunity for the NHS to identify and treat people who should have started taking medicines to reduce their risk of conditions including heart attack and stroke.
Identifying the individuals who missed starting medication as soon as possible will be critical to reducing their heart disease risk.
The team believes that identifying those who missed out on blood pressure treatment within five years would reduce the total number of cardiovascular events to just over 2,700.
This is the first time that medicines data has been used to follow changes in the day-to-day management of chronic conditions.
The researchers say that being able to routinely track this in the future, particularly during healthcare crises, would allow the NHS and policymakers to step in earlier to avoid a repeat of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you care about high blood pressure, please read studies about the key to treating high blood pressure, and new evidence on rare blood clots after COVID-19 vaccination.
For more information about health, please see recent studies about how vitamin D could improve blood pressure in people with diabetes, and results showing many people with high blood pressure may take a drug making it worse.
The study was conducted by Professor Reecha Sofat et al and published in Nature Medicine.
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