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What medications can damage your kidneys?

Medically reviewed by Sally Chao, MD. Last updated on March 15, 2022.

Official answer

by Drugs.com

Lots of medications can harm the kidneys and interfere with their function. Your kidneys filter blood and remove wastes and extra water to make urine.

This list of medications that may damage kidneys includes:

Pain relievers

Both over-the-counter and prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can reduce blood flow to the kidneys, which is dangerous for people who already have decreased kidney function. In addition, long-term use of pain medicines such as acetaminophen, aspirin and NSAIDs can cause damage within the internal structures of the kidney (analgesic nephropathy).

Antibiotics and antivirals

Various classes of antibiotics have different effects on kidney function. Some may cause more damage than others. There are different antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral medicines that rely less on the kidneys to filter and are safer for your kidneys.

Laxatives

Laxatives called sodium phosphate (OSP) products that are used before a colonoscopy to clean out the colon can harm the kidneys. They can cause loss of kidney function or acute kidney injury and other issues linked to the deposit of phosphate crystals in the kidneys.

Cholesterol medications

Statins, a common medication taken to lower cholesterol, may worsen chronic kidney disease.

Antacid medications

Antacids that contain aluminum or magnesium can disrupt the body's electrolyte balance in people with chronic kidney disease.

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)

These drugs are used to treat heartburn, but may result in chronic kidney damage.

Diabetes medications

Diabetes and kidney disease can travel together, and some diabetes medications are cleared by the kidneys. Doses may need adjusting based on kidney function.

Blood pressure-lowering drugs

Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and other drugs that treat high blood pressure may contribute to kidney damage when used over the long term.

References
  1. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Keeping Kidneys Safe: Smart Choices about Medicines. June 2018. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/keeping-kidneys-safe . [Accessed February 18, 2022].
  2. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Your Kidneys & How They Work. June 2018. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/kidneys-how-they-work . [Accessed February 18, 2022].
  3. National Kidney Foundation. 5 Drugs You May Need to Avoid or Adjust if You Have Kidney Disease. Available at: https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/5-drugs-you-may-need-to-avoid-or-adjust-if-you-have-kidney-disease . [Accessed February 18, 2022].
  4. U.S. National Library of Medicine MedlinePlus. Analgesic nephropathy. Available at: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000482.htm . [Accessed February 18, 2022].
  5. National Kidney Foundation. Oral Sodium Phosphate Safety Alerts. Available at: https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/oralsodium#:~:text=Patients%20with%20chronic%20kidney%20disease,well%20as%2C%20blood%20mineral%20disturbances . [Accessed February 18, 2022].
  6. Esmeijer K, Dekkers OM, de Fijter JW, et al. Effect of different types of statins on kidney function decline and proteinuria: a network meta-analysis. Sci Rep . 2019. 9(16632). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-53064-x .
  7. National Health Service UK. Pharmacy remedies and kidney disease. August 29, 2019. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/kidney-disease/pharmacy-remedies-kidney-disease/ . [Accessed February 18, 2022].
  8. Xie Y, Bowe B, Li T, et al. Long-term kidney outcomes among users of proton pump inhibitors without intervening acute kidney injury. Kidney Int . 2017 . 91(6):1482-1494. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.kint.2016.12.021 .
  9. Watanabe H, Martini AG, Brown EA, et al. Inhibition of the renin-angiotensin system causes concentric hypertrophy of renal arterioles in mice and humans. JCI Insight . 2021.6(24):e154337 . https://doi.org/10.1172/jci.insight.154337 .

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