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There are few reviews comparing the long-term outcomes of the use of angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors or angiotensin II receptor blockers in a hypertensive population because both are effective in reducing blood pressure. None of them compared angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors or angiotensin II receptor blockers with a placebo group in patients with essential hypertension, because few studies exist with this design.A systematic search of PUBMED, LILACS, SCIELO, ICTRP, Cochrane, EMBASE and ClinicalTrials.gov from 1 January 2000 until 31 December 2015 selected prospective studies that reported an association between the use of angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors or angiotensin II receptor blockers in the following cardiovascular outcomes: heart failure/hospitalisation, stroke, acute myocardial infarction, total cardiovascular deaths, total deaths and total outcomes. Summary odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were combined by using a fixed-effects model.Seventeen studies (n = 73,761) were included of which 12 studies were randomly assigned to angiotensin II receptor blocker therapy (n = 24,697) and five to angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (n = 12,170). Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors proved to be significant in reducing total deaths (OR 0.85, 95% CI 0.78–0.93) and cardiovascular deaths (OR 0.77, 95% CI 0.69–0.87). Angiotensin II receptor blocker therapy did not show a reduction in total deaths (OR 1.02, 95% CI 0.96–1.09) or cardiovascular deaths (OR 0.95, 95% CI 0.86–1.06). For acute myocardial infarction, stroke and heart failure/hospitalisation, the reductions were significant for both classes.Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor or angiotensin II receptor blocker use is similar in preventing major cardiovascular outcomes regarding acute myocardial infarction, stroke and heart failure/hospitalisation. However, the use of angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors is more effective in reducing total deaths and cardiovascular deaths than angiotensin II receptor blockers.