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Other Medication

People with kidney failure often need to take several medicines to help keep them healthy. This page lists some of the medicines that are commonly taken and a few side effects. Also see the page about blood pressure and water tablets.

ALFACALCIDOL is a Vitamin D capsule. It is given to increase your blood calcium level and keep it normal. Over time, this helps to keep your bones healthy. It is usually taken once a day in the morning or three times a week with each haemodialysis session. Side effects can include feeling sick. If this happens try taking it with food. Liquid drops are also available if you have trouble swallowing, or prefer to avoid capsules that contain gelatin, for example if you are a strict vegetarian.

ASPIRIN is given to help to thin your blood to stop your dialysis lines or fistula from becoming blocked. Some people also take aspirin for heart problems. It is normally taken once a day in the morning. Aspirin may irritate your stomach or cause indigestion; this can be reduced by taking the tablet with food and dissolving it in water before swallowing.


There are many different types of anti-histamines. These include:

  • Chlorphenamine (“Piriton”)
  • Hydroxyzine
  • Cetirizine
  • Loratadine
  • Fexofenadine

Anti-histamines are used to reduce itching that can happen if waste products build up in your body. There are several types available. Some anti-histamines can cause drowsiness, if you feel drowsy do not drive or operate machinery.

Chlorphenamine (“Piriton”) and some other antihistamines can be bought from your local pharmacy. Take care not to take twice the recommended dose i.e. do not take antihistamines prescribed by your doctor and in addition to those you have bought.

FERROUS SULPHATE is an iron tablet which can be used to treat to try and reduce anaemia. It is often taken three times a day. If you are taking phosphate binders or some antibiotics (check with the pharmacist) you should try and split the doses by one hour. Side effects can include constipation, diarrhoea or feeling sick. If this happens try taking the tablets with food. You may notice your stools or urine becoming a darker colour; this is normal and nothing to worry about. If your stools suddenly become very black, tell your doctor.

LACTULOSE, DOCUSATE and SENNA are laxatives and are given to treat constipation. Senna is usually taken in the evening, lactulose and docusate can be taken once or twice a day. They may take a day or so to be effective. Side effects can include belching and stomach cramps.

RANITIDINE helps to reduce the amount of acid in your stomach, to prevent acid indigestion or problems with stomach ulcers. It is usually taken once or twice a day. Possible side effects can include tiredness, headaches and dizziness.

LANSOPRAZOLE or OMEPRAZOLE reduce the amount of acid in your stomach, to prevent acid indigestion or problems with stomach ulcers. Lansoprazole should be taken first thing in the morning before breakfast, omeprazole can be taken in the morning or evening. Side effects include diarrhoea, feeling sick.

SIMVASTATIN, PRAVASTATIN or ATORVASTATIN help to reduce cholesterol levels. The tablets should be taken at bedtime. Possible side effects include headache, feeling sick and muscle pain or muscle weakness. If you suffer from muscle pain you should tell your doctor.

SODIUM BICARBONATE is used to prevent the blood becoming too acidic. The dose depends on the acid level, and is adjusted to keep the level right, but is usually two or three times a day. Side effects include stomach cramps, belching and flatulence.


Other advice


Always take your tablets as directed by your doctor and only stop them on the advice of your doctor.


Storing your medicine


You should store the tablets in their original packet in a cool, dry place out of the sight and reach of children.


Do not throw out any expired or unwanted medicine by flushing them down the toilet or throwing them away. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.


The National Kidney Federation cannot accept responsibility for information provided. The above is for guidance only. Patients are advised to seek further information from their own doctor.

NKF Controlled Document No. 68: Other Medication written: 22/04/2000 last reviewed: 01/10/2016