A large percentage of people with Kidney Disease (also known as Chronic Kidney Disease or CKD) take medications (“meds”) for other diseases or conditions. In addition to drugs prescribed for things such as heart disease or diabetes, they may also use common pain relievers for headaches and muscle pain, or antacids for upset stomach.

Every one of these drugs can cause additional kidney damage and other harm to someone suffering from chronic kidney disease.

But, most of the estimated 26 million Americans who have Kidney Disease do not even know they have it. This is because the disease starts very slowly and gets worse, little by little, over a great many years—and it usually does this without showing any symptoms until it reaches an advanced stage. As a result, millions of people continue to use medications without suspecting how badly the drugs are damaging their bodies.

Basic blood and urine tests can show if you have started to develop kidney disease and warn you to watch your medication use, if you have. These tests are particularly important for people who fall into one of the groups at high risk for contracting kidney disease, including:

  • people over 60
  • people with a family history of kidney problems
  • people with diabetes or high blood pressure

Kidney Disease Drug Interactions

It is also important to make sure that the medications or supplements you are using are not creating dangerous interactions with other drugs or meds

Drugs / Medications to Avoid or Reduce
for People with Chronic Kidney Disease:

People with CKD very often suffer from other illnesses or diseases. Unfortunately, many of the medications prescribed to control these conditions can make them even sicker than they already are.

Heartburn and stomach acid medications known as Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) can cause CKD and can damage your kidneys further, once you have it. These drugs are sold under brand names Prilosec, Nexium, Prevacid, and Protonix and are taken for stomach ulcers, heartburn, or acid reflux disease (GERD). If you have been told you have Chronic Kidney Disease, Kidney Injury, or Kidney Damage, your doctor may advise you to stop using PPIs altogether.

Diabetes is one of the most common causes of CKD. Because of this, many patients begin taking diabetes medications long before they are diagnosed with CKD. This is a difficult problem, because insulin and certain other drugs used by diabetics have to be filtered by the kidneys in order to work properly. If your kidneys have been damaged by CKD, your diabetes drugs may not do their job. Dangerous levels of the drugs can also build up in your system, because your kidneys can no longer filter your blood as well as they should.

In addition, some diabetes drugs may cause Kidney Disease and even Kidney Failure. Invokana, Farxiga, and Jardiance, for example, are diabetes drugs (known as SGLT2 inhibitors) that rely on the kidneys to remove excess sugar through the urine. These drugs have been found to increase the risk of Kidney Failure in patients who use them.

Drugs taken to lower blood cholesterol, called statins, are one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States. Studies have shown that people who take high-dose statins have a significantly increased risk of acute (sudden) kidney injury. This can occur even in patients who do not have Kidney Disease.

If you are taking a statin drug to lower your cholesterol, you will want to have regular tests of your kidneys’ health. This is especially important if you have been diagnosed with CKD. High-dose statins that should be avoided by patients with Kidney Disease include Crestor (10 milligrams or higher), Lipitor (20 milligrams or higher), and Zocor (40 milligrams or higher).

Pain medications are so common and have been around for so long that most people assume they are perfectly safe. This assumption is far from correct. Many of the pills we take for headaches, muscle aches, and fever can cause us to develop Kidney Disease and make it worse once we have it.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin), Naproxen (Aleve), and the prescription drugs Anaprox, Celebrex, Clinoril, and Feldene are among the worst offenders. They can reduce the amount of blood that flows to your kidneys, cause more kidney damage the longer you use them, and increase your risk of Acute (sudden) Kidney Failure.

Antacids, such as Tums, Gelasil, Mylanta, and Maalox, to name a few, can be bought without a prescription and are regularly used by people across the country to reduce indigestion, stomach acid, heartburn, and upset stomach. Some aluminum containing antacids (Maalox, for example) may cause Acute Kidney Failure if used over long periods of time.

Antacids can also disrupt the electrolyte balance of people with CKD. Improper balances of electrolytes (such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium) are one of the dangerous effects of Chronic Kidney Disease, and antacid use can make this imbalance even greater. The electrolyte imbalance can go on to raise your blood pressure, which, in turn, raises your risks of heart disease and stroke.

Drugs known as anticoagulants are often prescribed to treat certain types of heart disease. These medications thin your blood and make it less sticky. This can reduce your chances of having a heart attack or stroke caused by a blood clot. Some of the most common oral (pill form) anticoagulants are Coumadin (warfarin), Eliquis (apixaban), Pradaxa (dabigatran), and Xarelto (rivaroxabin).

Severe blood loss is one of the most dangerous side effects of using an anticoagulant. The risk of excessive bleeding may be even greater for someone with reduced kidney function. Warfarin and other blood thinners have been associated with acute kidney injury related to excessive bleeding. For this reason, patients with chronic kidney disease should be cautious about using these drugs.

Topamax (topiramate) is a drug often used to treat epilepsy (seizures), painful headaches (migraines), and bipolar disease (manic depression). Topamax may increase your risk of kidney stones (hard, painful mineral deposits in your kidneys or urinary tract).

It may also cause you to have too much acid in your blood (metabolic acidosis), which can injure your kidneys and bones and shorten your life. If you already have CKD or other kidney problems when you begin taking Topamax, your kidneys may suffer even greater harm. If you have been diagnosed with CKD, your doctor may decide to give you a lower dose of Topamax or put you on a different medication.

Keppra (levetiracetam) is another drug that has been prescribed to control seizures in children as well as adults. Keppra should be prescribed with caution and in lower doses for patients with decreased kidney function.

Doctors usually advise patients who are 50 and older to get a colonoscopy every 5 or 10 years. To prepare for this procedure, patients need to clean out their colons with special oral (taken by mouth) laxatives often called colonoscopy preps, colon preps, or bowel preps.

Many of these laxatives can damage your kidneys and cause them to stop working. The FDA has warned that both Visicol and OsmoPrep increase the risk of acute kidney injury in patients who use these oral sodium phosphate solutions (OSPS). The FDA has also advised people to avoid other OSPS laxatives (including Fleet Phospho-soda) because of the kidney injuries they may cause. Patients who are more likely to suffer kidney damage from these laxatives include people over 55 and people who already suffer from kidney problems or bowel disease.

Other oral laxatives that should be avoided by people with kidney disease or problems include:

  • Amitza (Lubiprostone)
  • Benefiber
  • Black-Draught
  • CeraLyte 70
  • Cholan-HMB
  • Citrate of Magnesia
  • Colace
  • GaviLAX
  • GaviLyte-N with Flavor Pack
  • GlycoLax
  • Prepopik
  • Senna-S
  • Senokot
  • Suprep Bowel Prep Kit

Many of the medications used to treat bacterial infections, viruses, and fungal infections are made to be broken down by the kidneys and then disposed of through the urine. If you have Chronic Kidney Disease, your kidneys may be unable to perform this job effectively and may leave toxic levels of these medications in your body. These drugs may also cause additional damage to your kidneys.

Antibiotics that may cause this type of damage include Vancomycin, Gentamycin, and Amphotericin B. Examples of antiviral medications that cause kidney damage include Cidofovir, Adefovir Dipivoxil, Tenofovir, and Acyclovir. An anti-fungal drug called Amphotericin can reduce your kidney function by causing dangerous levels of potassium or magnesium in your blood and may lead to acute kidney injury.

NEXT: Chronic Kidney Disease Drug Interactions »