How Do My Kidneys Affect My Medications?

Published: September 28, 2022
Barbara Young
By Barbara Young, PharmD

Have you ever heard or read the statement, “Be sure to tell your doctor if you have kidney disease before taking this medication?” Did you wonder how the health of your kidneys can affect your medications?


What do my kidneys do?

Your kidneys work to remove waste and extra fluid from your body and to keep a proper balance of water, salts, and minerals in your blood. As you get older, it is not uncommon for your kidneys to not work as well. Other conditions may contribute to this decline such as high blood pressure or diabetes or an infection or taking a drug that is harmful to the kidneys.


How do my kidneys affect my medications?

Most medications are removed from the body by the kidney, liver, or a combination of both organs. For medications mostly removed by the kidney, having kidney disease can slow the removal of the drug and cause a buildup of the medication in the body. Therefore, your doctor may need to give you a lower dose of the medication or tell you to take it less frequently.


Some examples of medications that may need to be adjusted include antibiotics, antifungal and antiviral medications; some oral medications for diabetes; and drugs used to treat high blood pressure.


Can medications damage my kidneys?

Yes. Some medications can cause damage to the kidneys and therefore are not recommended to be taken if you already have kidney disease. This includes over-the-counter (OTC) medications such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), naproxen (Aleve), and aspirin which can further reduce blood flow to the kidneys.


Other types of medications that may cause kidney damage are certain medications to treat infections, diuretics, certain laxatives, and dyes given before scans.



If you have kidney disease, it is always important to check with your pharmacist or doctor before taking any new prescription or OTC medication, including herbal medications and supplements. They can instruct you if you should take the medication, change the dosage, or switch to another medication that may be safer for you.


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