Most Frequently Diagnosed Drugs For Dialysis Patients

Dialysis is a procedure used to remove excess water and waste from the blood for people suffering from a loss of kidney function and renal failure. Mortality rates for dialysis patients improved between 1980 and 2001, but have since fallen every year. By 2008, mortality rates had fallen to levels last seen in the early 1980s. More alarmingly, the incidence of Chronic Kidney Disease among people aged 65 or older more than doubled between 2000 and 2008.

Patients undergoing dialysis are advised to follow a diet low in protein, sodium and phosphorus, and to take vitamin and mineral supplements to lower the workload on their kidneys. There are also several drugs often used to maintain a patient’s health for as long as possible.

Most dialysis patients receive treatment for a low blood cell count known as anemia. Erythropoietin is a hormone made and secreted by the kidneys which has been available by injection since 1989. Patients undergoing dialysis usually receive this hormone via the return dialysis tubing. Brand names of the drug include Procit, Eprex, NeoRecormon and Aranesp. In addition to erythropoietin, most patients also take iron supplements to boost their red blood cell counts.

Dialysis patients also take phosphorous binders in addition to restricting their dietary phosphorous intake. The most commonly used is PhosLo, which is made by Fresanius Medical care. One risk with this type of calcium acetate treatment is an increased risk of developing Hypercalcemia. An alternative drug that can be used is Renagel which binds with phosphorous in the gut but does not contain calcium. Over-the-counter solutions such as Tums are also used.

Dialysis patients also take an oral form of active vitamin D to maintain normal parathyroid hormone, or PTH, levels. High PTH levels cause the bones, tendons and muscles to become inflamed and cause severe itching in patients undergoing dialysis. The most common medicines used are Hectorol, Rocaltrol, and Zemplar. These drugs are normally delivered intravenously during dialysis treatment.

Around 40% of dialysis patients suffer from diabetes and take insulin to control their blood sugar levels. In addition to insulin injections, many drugs taken orally are used in the treatment of diabetes. The most commonly used are metformin, sulfonylureas, meglitinides, dipeptidyl peptidase-4 inhibitors, biguanides and alpha-glucosidase inhibitors.

Heart disease is also common among patients with Chronic Kidney Disease and statins are often prescribed even for patients without high cholesterol. Popular statins include Zocor, Pravachol, and Lipitor, the subject of recent dangerous drug lawsuits. High doses of folic acid are also used to prevent elevated homocysteine levels which are linked to an increased risk of heart attacks.

Sources:
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hemodialysis/MY00281
http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/kustats/#13
http://www.globaldialysis.com/Drugs-used-in-renal-care-info.html
http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm260670.htm
http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation/ucm250250.htm