Continuing Medical Education

Drugs and the kidney

S Naidoo, A M Meyers


This article on drug nephrotoxicity is detailed, as it is important to be fully aware of renal side-effects of drugs with regard to prevention and
early diagnosis in order to manage the condition correctly. Many therapeutic agents are nephrotoxic, particularly when the serum half-life is
prolonged and blood levels are raised because of decreased renal excretion. Distal nephrotoxicity is markedly enhanced when the glomerular
filtration rate (GFR) is reduced and is a particular threat in elderly patients with so-called ‘normal’ creatinine levels. In patients of 45 - 55 years of age the
GFR is reduced by about 1 mL/min/year, so that an otherwise healthy person of 80 may have an estimated GFR (eGFR) of <60 mL/min or <50 mL/min,
i.e. stage 2, 3 or 3b chronic kidney disease (CKD). Furthermore, other effects related to kidney dysfunction may be seen, e.g. worsening of hypertension
with the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, increased bruising or bleeding tendency with aspirin, and hyponatraemia hypertension
acidosis with angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors or angiotensin II receptor blockers. Digoxin is contraindicated in stage 3 CKD, even in
a reduced dosage. Other drugs can cause the direct formation of kidney stones, e.g. topiramate (used in the prophylaxis of resistant migraine).
Levofloxacin (Tavanic) can cause rupture of the Achilles tendon and other tendons.
Radiocontrast media must be used with care. Occasionally, strategies to prevent acute kidney insufficiency cause irreversible CKD,
especially in patients with diabetes and those with myeloma who have stage 4 - 5 CKD. Gadolinium in its many forms (even the newer
products) used as contrast medium for magnetic resonance imaging is best avoided in patients with stages 4 and 5 CKD.

Authors' affiliations

S Naidoo, School of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand; Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital; and Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre, Johannesburg, South Africa

A M Meyers, Donald Gordon Medical Centre, Klerksdorp Hospital, and National Kidney Foundation of South Africa, Johannesburg, South Africa

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Drugs; Kidney

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2015;105(4):322. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.9537

Article History

Date submitted: 2015-02-24
Date published: 2015-03-07

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