Nearly 500,000 people were delayed on starting medication to lower their blood pressure during the COVID-19 pandemic, research by the British Heart Foundation has revealed.
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.
Using data on routinely dispensed prescriptions in England, Scotland and Wales, scientists found that 491,306 fewer people than expected started taking blood pressure lowering medication between March 2020 and the end of July 2021.
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‘Measures to prevent infection spread were necessary and undoubtedly saved lives. The NHS has already taken important and positive steps towards identifying people with high blood pressure as early as possible,’ said Professor Reecha Sofat, Associate Director at the BHF Data Science Centre, Breckenridge Chair of Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Liverpool.
‘However, we need this focus to be sustained in the long-term to prevent any increase in heart attacks and strokes which will add to a healthcare system already under extreme pressure.’
By the first half of 2021, on average, 27,070 fewer people started taking blood pressure lowering medication each month between compared with 2019. In the same period, they found that 16,744 fewer people started taking medication to reduce levels of fat or cholesterol in their blood each month.
‘Despite the incredible work done by NHS staff, our data show that we’re still not identifying people with cardiovascular risk factors at the same rate as we were before the pandemic,’ added Professor Sofat.
‘Detecting these risk factors early and beginning medication where appropriate is crucial to manage them, helping more people to avoid a preventable heart attack or stroke so they can live in good health for longer.’