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Common Medications for People with Kidney Failure

When it comes to any chronic medical condition, staying on top of taking your medications as prescribed by your doctor is critical to maintaining your health. This is certainly true with kidney failure, which is known as stage 5 chronic kidney disease (CKD) or end stage renal disease (ESRD). There is no cure for kidney disease, and if you progress to kidney failure, you will need kidney replacement therapy (i.e., a transplant or ongoing dialysis) to stay as healthy as possible. Additionally, your medications and dosages may change because of your treatment choice. It’s critical to talk to your doctor about what medications you’re currently taking for any other conditions and adjust if need be.

Understanding Kidney Failure

Kidney failure doesn’t have a single cause, but there are health conditions that may contribute to progression of kidney disease, such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Most medications that individuals with kidney failure take are geared toward managing the underlying health conditions related to CKD. That’s why taking your medications as directed is vital to your overall health.

Which Medications Are Common for People with Kidney Failure?

Although no medication treats CKD directly, certain medications can treat symptoms and related conditions. People with kidney failure require precise dosage adjustments to their medications to account for how drugs interact with each other and the kidneys. Adverse drug reactions are common for individuals with CKD and many are preventable, which is why it’s important to discuss all of your medications with your doctor and nephrologist (kidney doctor).1

Some medications for common health conditions in people with kidney failure include medications for:


Diabetes is a leading cause of kidney disease and kidney failure. The specific treatment for diabetes will depend on the type. Type 1 diabetes mainly requires insulin injections, while type 2 diabetes may require insulin or other oral medicines to lower blood sugar.

High blood pressure

High blood pressure can be both a symptom and a cause of kidney failure. Depending on your specific condition, your doctor may prescribe various medications that work on different parts of your body to lower blood pressure. Additionally, your doctor may prescribe diuretics (water pills), which help remove excess fluid from your body and can help lower blood pressure.

Heart disease

Heart disease is closely related to high blood pressure, and many of the medications that doctors prescribe for heart disease are intended to lower blood pressure as well. In addition, doctors may prescribe medications to help your body get rid of extra potassium, which is important for heart health.

High cholesterol

Cholesterol is a fatty substance that can build up in your arteries. It can prevent blood from flowing properly in your body, even in your kidneys. If your cholesterol is high, you may require statins to lower it and help preserve kidney health.


Kidneys produce a hormone that tells your body to produce red blood cells. Anemia is the condition that happens when you don’t have enough red blood cells. If you have anemia, your doctor may prescribe a hormone replacement or iron supplementation.

Bone disease

People with kidney failure are more likely to have bone disease. Too much phosphorus in your blood can actually cause bone weakness. You may be prescribed phosphate binders to help remove extra phosphorus from your blood and Vitamin D to help with bone weakness.

Managing Your Treatment

In addition to medications to help treat health conditions related to CKD, there may be medications to avoid. Be sure to talk to your doctor to see how the medications you’re taking may interact with each other and any over–the-counter drugs. In general, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or aspirin are not good for people with kidney disease as they can reduce blood flow to the kidneys. You may also avoid vitamin D, but be sure to discuss with your dietitian and care team.

Living with Kidney Failure

Kidney failure can be a serious condition that requires continuing medical treatments. Understanding your diagnosis and communicating with your doctors is key to managing your health. Be sure to discuss any medications you take—both prescribed and over the counter—so that you can live well and thrive.


1Solène M. Laville, Valérie Gras-Champel, Julien Moragny, Marie Metzger, Christian Jacquelinet, Christian Combe, Denis Fouque, et al., on behalf of the Chronic Kidney Disease-Renal Epidemiology and Information Network (CKD-REIN) Study Group. Adverse Drug Reactions in Patients with CKD. CJASN 2020;15(8):1090-1102.



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