Letters to the Editor

Drug Dosing in Older Patients with Chronic Kidney Disease


Am Fam Physician. 2007 Dec 15;76(12):1766.

to the editor: I appreciated the excellent article by Drs. Munar and Singh on drug dosing in patients with chronic kidney disease in the May 15, 2007, issue of American Family Physician.1 As an academic family physician with a certificate of added qualification in geriatrics, I encounter this issue nearly daily, and I would like to provide a geriatrician's perspective.

Although the Cockcroft-Gault equation and the Modification of Diet in Renal Disease (MDRD) equation are valuable and relatively accurate for approximating a patient's creatinine clearance, I find their utility limited in daily practice. The Cockcroft-Gault equation requires knowledge of ideal body weight, and the developers of the MDRD equation caution against using it in older patients and in those with stable kidney function.2

I use (and teach) the long-overlooked and less well-known Jelliffe equation, which is well validated.3 Although it is no more or less accurate than the Cockcroft-Gault or MDRD equations, its advantage is that it can be calculated in one's head. There are several versions of this equation; the simplest is:

For women, the resultant value is multiplied by 0.9. Consequently, an 80-year-old man with a creatinine level of 1.0 mg per dL (90 μmol per L) has a clearance of 50 mL per minute (0.83 mL per second), whereas a woman of similar age with the same creatinine level has a clearance of 45 mL per min (0.75 mL per second).

Once a patient's creatinine clearance is calculated, it is important to recognize certain medications that should be reduced or avoided. Drs. Munar and Singh laudably review antibiotic adjustments;1 I routinely refer to the “Dosage in Renal Failure” table of my pocket Sanford Guide.4 Two antibiotics in particular deserve emphasis. The double-strength tablet of trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim, Septra), which is commonly prescribed, should be avoided unless the patient's creatinine clearance is known to exceed 50 mL per minute; the single-strength tablet of trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole is preferable. Nitrofurantoin (Furadantin) is contraindicated if a patient's creatinine clearance is less than 60 mL per min, a condition that occurs often in patients older than 65 years.

Thiazides, often prescribed to patients who are older, are ineffective in patients with a creatinine clearance less than 30 mL per min (0.50 mL per second). Finally, it is important to recognize that alendronate (Fosamax), risedronate (Actonel), and ibandronate (Boniva), bisphosphonates used to prevent hip fractures in patients with osteoporosis, are contraindicated in patients with creatinine clearances less than 35 mL per minute (0.58 mL per second), 30 mL per minute, and 30 mL per minute, respectively.

I echo Drs. Munar's and Singh's recommendations to adjust for renal clearance when prescribing medications. I prefer the Jelliffe formula for its bedside ease; but whichever method we use, as long as we calculate clearance we will prescribe more safely.

Author disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


show all references

1. Munar MY, Singh H. Drug dosing adjustments in patients with chronic kidney disease. Am Fam Physician. 2007;75:1487–96....

2. Levey AS, Bosch JP, Lewis JB, Greene T, Rogers N, Roth D. A more accurate method to estimate glomerular filtration rate from serum creatinine: a new prediction equation. Modification of Diet in Renal Disease Study Group. Ann Intern Med. 1999;130:461–70.

3. Jelliffe RW. Creatinine clearance: bedside estimate [Letter]. Ann Intern Med. 1973;79:604–5.

4. Gilbert DN, Moellering RC, Eliopoulos GM, Sande MA. The Sanford Guide to Antimicrobial Therapy 2006. 36th ed. Sperryville, Va.: Antimicrobial Therapy, 2006.

Send letters to afplet@aafp.org, or 11400 Tomahawk Creek Pkwy., Leawood, KS 66211-2680. Include your complete address, e-mail address, and telephone number. Letters should be fewer than 400 words and limited to six references, one table or figure, and three authors.

Letters submitted for publication in AFP must not be submitted to any other publication. Possible conflicts of interest must be disclosed at time of submission. Submission of a letter will be construed as granting the AAFP permission to publish the letter in any of its publications in any form. The editors may edit letters to meet style and space requirements.

This series is coordinated by Kenny Lin, MD, MPH, Associate Deputy Editor for AFP Online.



Copyright © 2007 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP. Contact afpserv@aafp.org for copyright questions and/or permission requests.

Want to use this article elsewhere? Get Permissions


Sep 2021

Access the latest issue of American Family Physician

Read the Issue

Email Alerts

Don't miss a single issue. Sign up for the free AFP email table of contents.

Sign Up Now

Navigate this Article