Medicines That Can Cause Acute Kidney Injury

Several drugs and medications can potentially cause kidney damage, either through direct toxicity or as a side effect.

It’s important to note that not everyone will experience kidney damage from these drugs, and the risk can vary depending on factors such as dosage, duration of use, and an individual’s overall health. Here are ten drugs and drug classes that have been associated with kidney damage:

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

NSAIDs like ibuprofen, naproxen, and certain prescription NSAIDs can lead to kidney damage, especially when taken at high doses or for extended periods. They can cause acute kidney injury (AKI) or worsen chronic kidney disease (CKD).

Certain Antibiotics

Some antibiotics, such as vancomycin, aminoglycosides (e.g., gentamicin, amikacin), and sulfonamides, can be nephrotoxic and potentially harm the kidneys.

Antiviral Medications

Some antiviral drugs used to treat HIV, such as tenofovir, can be associated with kidney damage.

ACE Inhibitors and Angiotensin Receptor Blockers (ARBs)

These are commonly used to manage hypertension and heart conditions, but they can lead to elevated levels of potassium, which may be harmful to the kidneys.

Certain Antifungal Medications

Some antifungal drugs, including amphotericin B, can have nephrotoxic effects.

Contrast Dye

Contrast dyes used for imaging procedures like CT scans or angiograms can potentially cause acute kidney injury, especially in individuals with pre-existing kidney issues.

Cyclosporine and Tacrolimus

These immunosuppressive drugs are used in organ transplant recipients to prevent organ rejection, but they can harm the kidneys.


Used in cancer treatment and for certain autoimmune diseases, methotrexate may lead to kidney damage.


Used to treat bipolar disorder, lithium can affect the kidneys and potentially lead to chronic kidney disease.

Gold Compounds

Rarely used today, gold-based medications for conditions like rheumatoid arthritis can be nephrotoxic.

It’s crucial to use these drugs only as prescribed by a healthcare professional and to monitor kidney function when taking medications that carry a risk of kidney damage.

Not everyone will experience kidney issues from these drugs, and in many cases, the benefits of the medication outweigh the risks.

However, awareness and proactive monitoring can help identify and address any kidney problems early, minimizing potential harm.


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