Calcitriol for kidney disease

Key points about calcitriol

  • Calcitriol is a type of vitamin D used to help regulate calcium and phosphate levels in your body.
  • It's used for people with severe kidney disease to lower their parathyroid hormone (PTH) levels.
  • Find out how to take it safely and possible side effects.


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Calcitriol is a medicine that is a form of vitamin D. It's used for people with severe kidney disease to lower their parathyroid hormone (PTH) levels. This hormone is released by the parathyroid glands in the neck and is often high in people with kidney disease. The purpose of PTH in the body is to control calcium and phosphate levels. Having high levels of PTH for long periods of time can cause calcium to be removed from the bones and weaken them and results in low levels of calcium in your blood. 

Healthy kidneys change vitamin D to an active form. If you have kidney disease, your kidneys may have trouble activating vitamin D and calcitriol can help with this. Calcitriol helps to raise the calcium level and lower the PTH level in the blood.

In Aotearoa New Zealand calcitriol comes as capsules (available in two strengths – 0.25 microgram and 0.5 microgram).

  • The dose of calcitriol will be different for different people, depending on your condition, the calcium level in your blood and your response to the medicine.
  • Some people will need to take their dose of calcitriol every day, while others will need to take it a few times a week. 
  • Always take calcitriol exactly as your doctor has told you. The pharmacy label on your medicine will tell you how much to take, how often to take it and any special instructions.

  • Swallow the capsules whole with a glass of water. Don't open or bite the capsules and don't take any capsules that are damaged.
  • You can take calcitriol with or without food. 
  • If you forget to take your dose, take it as soon as you remember. But if it's nearly time for your next dose, just take the next dose at the right time. Don't take double the dose
  • Calcitriol is usually taken long-term. Don't stop taking it until you talk to your healthcare provider.
  • Let you doctor or pharmacist know about any other medicines you are taking, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins or supplements you may buy from a health food shop.

Like all medicines, calcitriol can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them. 

Side effects What should I do?
Symptoms of too much calcium can include:
  • headache
  • confusion
  • vision changes
  • weakness
  • tiredness
  • dry mouth
  • metallic taste
  • feeling thirsty
  • loss of appetite
  • irregular heartbeat
  • muscle pain
  • stomach pain
  • nausea, vomiting
  • constipation
  • peeing more often
  • Tell your doctor. 
Did you know that you can report a medicine side effect to CARM (Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring)? Report a side effect to a product.(external link)

The following links have more information on calcitriol.
Calcitriol-AFT(external link) Medsafe Consumer Information, NZ
Calcitriol(external link) New Zealand Formulary Patient Information


  1. Calcitriol(external link) NZ Formulary, NZ

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Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist, Healthify He Puna Waiora. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.

Reviewed by: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland

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