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Thrive On

Taking Medications While on Dialysis

To help you get the most out of your dialysis treatment and feel your best, you may need to take certain kidney failure medications and vitamins. Taking dialysis medications and vitamins can help you manage your health and replace nutrients you may lose due to treatment or eating a kidney-friendly diet. If you also have other health conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, your Care Plan may also include additional medications prescribed by your doctor.

Your care team will monitor your health through the blood work you have at your regular lab appointments. Based on your lab results, your doctor may change or adjust your dialysis medication and vitamin prescriptions. Remember to tell your care team about any medications you’re taking-including over-the-counter medications and any medications prescribed by another doctor.

Following directions for each of your kidney failure medications

When kidneys fail during stage 5 of chronic kidney disease(CKD), dialysis treatment can replace some natural kidney functions by cleaning your blood and helping to maintain chemical balance. Because your body processes medications and vitamins differently when you’re on dialysis, following the dialysis medication guidelines and taking all medications exactly as prescribed—on time and with or without food—is especially important to your health. If you’re not clear on how to take your medications, ask your doctor or a member of your care team—they are there to help.

Common medications and vitamins for dialysis patients 

Blood Pressure Medications Help to control blood pressure in people on dialysis with hypertension (high blood pressure). Uncontrolled high blood pressure can cause stress on your heart and lead to serious health complications over time.
Epogen, Aranesp or Mircera Helps your body create more red blood cells and raise your hemoglobin level to help fight anemia and decrease the need for a red blood cell transfusion.
Erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESAs) Replace the erythropoietin your kidneys aren't producing, helping your body make new red blood cells. Your doctor may prescribe ESAs to treat anemia associated with CKD.
Heparin Prevents blood clots from forming as blood flows through dialysis tubing or the dialyzer during treatment.
Iron Helps enhance hemoglobin production and treat anemia due to blood loss or deficiencies of iron in diet. Iron is needed to make red blood cells and keep you feeling your best. It may be given intravenously during dialysis or orally.
Korsuva or Gabapentin Relieves pruritis, or itchy skin, that may be experienced by people on dialysis. Some pruritis medications can be taken at home while others must be administered in-center.
Nutritional Vitamin D Works to correct the vitamin D deficiency that is common with kidney failure and may have additional health benefits. Nutritional vitamin D may be taken orally at home.
Phosphate Binder Reduce the absorption of phosphorus (PHOS) consumed in foods and drinks. Phosphate binders prevent the buildup of phosphorus in the body, since very little is removed during dialysis. Talk to your care team about your calcium level to learn if a non-calcium-based binder may be better for you.
Renal (Kidney) Vitamin Replaces vitamins and nutrients that are lost during dialysis or not adequately received through daily diet. Water-soluble renal vitamins include vitamins Bl, B2, B6, and B12; folic acid; niacin; pantothenic acid; biotin; and vitamin C.
Stool Softener Relieves constipation that can be caused by limited fluid intake for people on dialysis, certain medications, or a lack of physical activity.
Topical Creams & Antihistamines Relieves itching and dry skin that may be experienced by people on dialysis. Antihistamines are available as a cream or may be taken orally.
Vitamin E Protects cells from oxidizing. Your doctor will determine if you're low on vitamin E and could benefit from taking it.

Dialysis may affect how your body reacts to certain substances. People on dialysis must understand their medications as well as manage a kidney-friendly diet. Your care team can help ensure you are making the best choices when it comes to foods, vitamins, and medications.


Take advantage of monthly medication check-ins

Each month, your care team will meet with you to review all of your medications to make sure that you are getting the medications you need. Depending on your blood test results and how you are feeling, your doctor may want to prescribe alternate medications or adjust some of your doses. Remember, it is important to talk to your doctor and care team about any changes to your prescriptions or over-the-counter medications and vitamins. So speak up, ask questions, and let them know how you’re really feeling.
Kidney-friendly pharmacy care
Specially trained pharmacists, like those at FreseniusRx, understand your medications and kidney disease. Save a trip to the pharmacy and have many of your medications delivered to your home or dialysis center.
Learn more
Make a medication cheat sheet
Having trouble remembering which medications to take and when? Print and fill out this handy reminder sheet. 

It’s also important to keep a paper copy in case of an emergency. 
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A better binder for a better you
Food and binders go together to make a healthy heart and strong bones—so take them exactly as prescribed when you eat. Use this checklist to help identify what binders are right for you.
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Four tips for managing your medications

  1. Make sure you understand each of your medications—including what they do, what you’re taking them for, and how they benefit your health. It’s also important to be able to identify each medication and know how and when to take it. Managing your medications according to dialysis medication guidelines is key to protecting your health and feeling your best. Taking your medication as directed can also mean better lab results and less time in the hospital. To help you stay organized, your nurse can work with you to create an up-to-date medication list.
  2. Check with your nephrologist (kidney doctor) or care team before taking any new medications—that includes any antibiotics, cold or allergy medicines, pain relievers, vitamins, or herbal supplements, in addition to your regularly prescribed medications. Even over-the-counter medications and vitamins can affect your body differently when you’re on dialysis to treat kidney failure. Also tell your nephrologist about any new medications prescribed by any of your other doctors. It’s helpful to bring all medications you’re taking with you to your appointments, so you can check in with your care team.
  3. Work with your pharmacist to manage your medications—specially trained pharmacists, like those at FreseniusRx, understand how your medications and kidney disease impact each other and can help you stay feeling your best. They can also help you understand your medications, answer questions, and set up medication delivery to your dialysis center or home.
  4. Track your daily medication regimen—keep a paper or digital medication checklist of all your medications, including prescriptions and vitamins, so you don’t miss a dose. You may even want to set an alarm to remind you when to take your medications. If you need help sorting your pills, ask your care partner or someone in your support network to help you stay organized.

Get helpful answers to frequently asked questions

Click on a question to reveal the explanation. 

If taking prescribed medications during dialysis treatment, they may be taken orally or intravenously (into a vein, like through an IV). It's important to take your medications as prescribed by your doctor to stay feeling your best.

Your body may respond differently to medications when you are on dialysis. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any medications, including vitamins, supplements, and other over-the-counter medications. They can help ensure there are no conflicts with any existing or new medications.

Your body processes medications differently while on dialysis. Certain medications may be less effective during dialysis treatment, while others may cause further damage to your kidneys. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist to determine the right medications and doses for you.
Managing otc medications
When on dialysis, it's important to understand
how over-the-counter medications impact your health. Our quick guide
can help.
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