Management of Polypharmacy in Dialysis Patients

Semin Dial. 2015 Jul-Aug;28(4):427-32. doi: 10.1111/sdi.12377. Epub 2015 Apr 9.


Most patients receiving dialysis have other common chronic conditions in addition to end-stage renal disease, including hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and mineral and bone disorder, all of which require long-term medication management. Dialysis patients take an average of 10-12 prescribed and over-the-counter medications from an average of 4.7 prescribers, and an average of 19 pills per day. Thus, reducing polypharmacy is not adequate as a medication therapy goal for these patients. Instead, the dialysis community should focus on ensuring that all patients receive medications that are appropriate, effective, safe and convenient. Barriers to this include a fragmented health care system with inadequate communication between multiple prescribers and pharmacies, and frequent care transitions between ambulatory care sites (dialysis centre, ambulatory primary care practice, ambulatory specialty practice) and the hospital, skilled nursing facility or long-term care facility. Three distinct processes are necessary to prevent and solve the resultant medication-related problems (and reduce polypharmacy). These are medication reconciliation (creating an accurate medication list that reflects all medications the patients is taking and how they are being taken), medication review (evaluating the list for appropriateness, effectiveness, safety and convenience in conjunction with the patient's health status), and ongoing patient-centred medication therapy management (e.g., developing treatment plans centred on each patient's medication-related goals). A team approach including pharmacists as part of the dialysis team with the dialysis facility as the primary medication home is needed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / complications
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / therapy*
  • Medication Reconciliation
  • Polypharmacy*
  • Renal Dialysis*