Will I Have to Take Medications After Getting a Kidney Transplant?

Samantha Hil, Vice President, Marketing, NKR

A kidney transplant can be life-changing for individuals diagnosed with kidney failure, offering the chance for a longer, healthier life. But what happens after the transplant? Do kidney transplant recipients have to take medication after the transplant?

With a successful kidney transplant, the journey doesn’t end in the operating room. To ensure the long-term success of the transplant and prevent the body from rejecting the new kidney, doctors typically prescribe a regimen of medications. These medications play a crucial role in supporting the immune system and maintaining the balance between acceptance of the transplant and defense against potential threats.

Immunosuppressants: The Protectors of Your New Kidney

All transplant recipients must take some form of anti-rejection medication after transplant. The cornerstone of these post-transplant medications are immunosuppressants. These drugs work by suppressing the immune system’s response, preventing it from recognizing the transplanted kidney as a foreign object and attacking it. While these medications are vital for preventing rejection, they also require careful management to strike the right balance.

Types of Post-Transplant Medications:

  • Calcineurin Inhibitors: These drugs, such as tacrolimus and cyclosporine, target specific immune responses and are commonly prescribed after a kidney transplant.
  • Antiproliferative Agents: Medications like mycophenolate mofetil (CellCept) help control the immune system by inhibiting cell growth.
  • Corticosteroids: Drugs like prednisone may be prescribed initially to reduce inflammation and prevent rejection.

The drugs prescribed after a kidney transplant are crucial for the success of a transplant, so it’s important to take all medications according to the prescribed schedule and not miss any doses. Missing doses or stopping medications abruptly can increase the risk of rejection.

Side Effects of Immunosuppressive Drugs

Like any medication, immunosuppressants may come with side effects. These can vary from person to person and may include issues such as tremors, diarrhea, high blood pressure, and decreased magnesium. Regular check-ups with your healthcare team will help them monitor and manage any potential side effects.

Can Immunosuppressive Drugs Be Reduced or Eliminated?

Immunosuppressive drugs are designed to prevent the immune system from rejecting the donated kidney as a foreign object. The closer the biological match between the donor and recipient, the less likely the recipient’s immune system is to attack the new organ as an invader. In other words, a donor kidney that is a close biological match to the recipient is more likely to be accepted by the immune system as “self” rather than “other.”

The best possible match donor–recipient matches are called low or zero eplet mismatches. With these types of excellent matches, some patients can safely lower their immunosuppression dosages, thus reducing the severity of the medications’ side effects. Learn more about kidney matching.

In addition to enabling immunosuppressive drug regimens to be reduced through superior matching technology, a new initiative called  ImmunoFree aims to eliminate the need for immunosuppressive medications entirely. This would enable transplant recipients to live longer, healthier lives free from the side effects of immunosuppressive medications and without fear of organ rejection. Learn more at https://www.immunofree.com.