Medication Information for Kidney Transplant Recipients

In recent years, kidney transplantation has become increasingly successful through the development of drugs that alter the transplant patient’s immune system. The immune system is the body's defense against foreign invaders like bacteria or viruses. Unfortunately, the immune system can not tell the difference between a harmful invader and a transplanted kidney, and will try to reject it.  Rejection is dangerous because it can permanently damage the transplanted kidney. That is why it is necessary for our patients to take anti-rejection medications as part of their long-term therapy.

The anti-rejection medications (also called immunosuppressants) protect the transplanted kidney by slowing down the immune system. There are a variety of anti-rejection medications available and each works in a different way to suppress the body’s immune response. Our transplant team will determine which combination of medications is right for each individual patient and may alter a medication regimen after the transplant to improve rejection prevention or reduce side effects.

It is necessary for all patients to take their immunosuppressive medications for the life of the transplanted kidney. A successful kidney transplant can be undermined very quickly by the failure of patients to take their medications appropriately and responsibly.

Beyond the need for immunosuppressants, it is necessary for our patients to take antibiotics to prevent infection for the first six months following the transplant. Depending on the patient’s state of health prior to the transplant, many patients often need other medications for ailments, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes, following the transplant. The transplant team may make alterations in your medical regimen after the transplant so that all of your medications work better together and to reduce the risk for side effects and drug interactions.

Patients should talk to their physician, pharmacist, transplant nurse and/or coordinator to understand fully:

  •  The name and purpose of each medication.
  •  When to take each medication.
  •  How to take each medication.
  •  How long to continue taking each medication.
  •  Principal side effects of each medication.
  •  What to do if you forget to take a dose.
  •  When to order more medication so it doesn't run out.
  •  How to order or obtain medications.
  •  What to avoid while taking medications.

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