Pharmacokinetics and dosage adjustment in patients with renal dysfunction

Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 2009 Aug;65(8):757-73. doi: 10.1007/s00228-009-0678-8. Epub 2009 Jun 20.


Introduction: Chronic kidney disease is a common, progressive illness that is becoming a global public health problem. In patients with kidney dysfunction, the renal excretion of parent drug and/or its metabolites will be impaired, leading to their excessive accumulation in the body. In addition, the plasma protein binding of drugs may be significantly reduced, which in turn could influence the pharmacokinetic processes of distribution and elimination. The activity of several drug-metabolizing enzymes and drug transporters has been shown to be impaired in chronic renal failure. In patients with end-stage renal disease, dialysis techniques such as hemodialysis and continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis may remove drugs from the body, necessitating dosage adjustment.

Methods: Inappropriate dosing in patients with renal dysfunction can cause toxicity or ineffective therapy. Therefore, the normal dosage regimen of a drug may have to be adjusted in a patient with renal dysfunction. Dosage adjustment is based on the remaining kidney function, most often estimated on the basis of the patient's glomerular filtration rate (GFR) estimated by the Cockroft-Gault formula. Net renal excretion of drug is a combination of three processes: glomerular filtration, tubular secretion and tubular reabsorption. Therefore, dosage adjustment based on GFR may not always be appropriate and a re-evaluation of markers of renal function may be required.

Discussion: According to EMEA and FDA guidelines, a pharmacokinetic study should be carried out during the development phase of a new drug that is likely to be used in patients with renal dysfunction and whose pharmacokinetics are likely to be significantly altered in these patients. This study should be carried out in carefully selected subjects with varying degrees of renal dysfunction. In addition to this two-stage pharmacokinetic approach, a population PK/PD study in patients participating in phase II/phase III clinical trials can also be used to assess the impact of renal dysfunction on the drug's pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics.

Conclusion: In conclusion, renal dysfunction affects more that just the renal handling of drugs and/or active drug metabolites. Even when the dosage adjustment recommended for patients with renal dysfunction are carefully followed, adverse drug reactions remain common.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Creatinine / blood
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Administration Schedule*
  • Glomerular Filtration Rate*
  • Hepatorenal Syndrome / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Kidney / metabolism*
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / blood
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / metabolism*
  • Kidney Function Tests
  • Mathematical Computing
  • Metabolic Clearance Rate
  • Pharmacokinetics*
  • Renal Dialysis
  • Severity of Illness Index


  • Biomarkers
  • Creatinine