U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Medicines and Kidney Disease

Medicines to Treat Kidney Disease

People with kidney disease often take medicines to lower blood pressure, control blood glucose, and lower blood cholesterol. Two types of blood pressure medicines - ACE inhibitors and ARBs - may slow kidney disease and delay kidney failure, even in people who don't have high blood pressure.

The most important step you can take to treat kidney disease is to control your blood pressure. Many people need to take two or more medicines for their blood pressure, often including a diuretic (water pill). These medicines may work better if you limit your salt intake. The goal is to keep your blood pressure at or below the target set by your health care provider. For most people, the blood pressure target is less than 140/90 mm Hg.

Other Medicines

Because you have kidney disease, you need to be careful about all the medicines you take. Your kidneys do not filter as well as they did in the past. This can cause an unsafe buildup of medicines in your blood. Some medicines can also harm your kidneys.

Your pharmacist and health care provider need to know about all the medicines you take so they can give you advice on how to protect your kidneys.

These medicines include:

  • Prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medicines - those you get without prescriptions.
  • Supplements, such as vitamins and herbal or natural remedies.

You may be told to:

  • Take some medicines in smaller amounts or less often.
  • Stop taking a medicine or switch to a different one.

Do you take medicines for headaches, pain, fever, or colds?

If you take OTC or prescription medicines for headaches, pain, fever, or colds, you may be taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs include commonly used pain relievers and cold medicines that can damage your kidneys and lead to acute kidney injury, especially in those with kidney disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Ibuprofen and naproxen are NSAIDs.

NSAIDs are sold under many different brand names, so ask your pharmacist or health care provider if the medicines you take are safe to use. You also can look for NSAIDs on Drug Facts labels like the one below.

A picture of a sample drug label for a drug that contains ibuprofen. Ibuprofen is an NSAID.  

What you can do

  • The next time you pick up a prescription or buy an OTC medicine or supplement, ask your pharmacist how the product may:
    • Affect your kidneys.
    • Interact with your other medicines.
  • Get your prescriptions filled at one pharmacy or pharmacy chain, so your pharmacist can:
    • Keep track of your medicines.
    • Check for harmful interactions.
  • Keep track of your medicines and supplements. Here are some ideas:
    • Put all of them in a bag and take them with you to the pharmacy and your doctor's appointments.
    • List them on a sheet of paper. Keep your list up to date and in your wallet. Take your list with you to all health care visits.

Remember that you can always talk with your pharmacist or health care provider about your medicines

Additional Reading


​​Page last updated: September 17, 2014​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

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