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Chronic Kidney Disease and Medicines: What You Need to Know

What you need to know

Because you have chronic kidney disease, you should take steps to protect your kidneys. Make changes to what you eat, manage your blood pressure, and manage your blood sugar if you have diabetes.

You also need to be careful about all of the medicines you take. Read this brochure to learn more, and talk with your pharmacist if you have questions.

What the kidneys do

Healthy kidneys filter wastes and extra water from your blood to make urine. The kidneys also help remove some medicines from your blood.

Why your pharmacist and provider need to know about your medicine and supplement use

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 also can harm your kidneys.

Your pharmacist and healthcare provider need to know what 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, and
  • 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
What the kidneys do
What the Kidneys Do
Healthy kidneys filter wastes and extra water from your blood to make urine. The kidneys also help remove some medicines from your blood.

Do you take over-the-counter (OTC) medicines?

If you take OTC medicines for headaches, pain, fever, or colds, you may be taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs are OTC medicines that can be harmful to your kidneys. Common NSAIDs include ibuprofen and naproxen.

Ask your pharmacist or provider if the OTC 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 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:
    • Keep them in a bag and take it with you to the pharmacy.
    • List them on a sheet of paper. Keep your list up to date by taking it with you to all health care visits.

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

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This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

This information is not copyrighted. The NIDDK encourages people to share this content freely.

July 10, 2013

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