Patients who received a combination of vancomycin and piperacillin-tazobactam may be at an increased risk for kidney damage, according to researchers from the Sanford University of South Dakota Medical Center.

Tadd Hellwig, PharmD, BCPS, and colleagues identified 735 Sanford USD Medical Center adult patients who took either vancomycin, piperacillin-tazobactam, or a combination of both over two 3-month periods in 2009 and 2010. Between 2009 and 2010, the infusion time of piperacillin-tazobactam changed from 30 minutes to 4 hours.

“This is one of the first big research projects that I’ve done,” Dr Hellwig noted in a press release. “It showed me that even without grant funding, I can still look at problems, do research and get results that can improve patient care.”

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Vancomycin is generally used to treat patients with staph bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and piperacillin-tazobactam is often combined with other antibiotics, according to Dr Hellwig.

The researchers noted that more than 20% of the 109 patients who took both antibiotics with a shorter infusion time developed acute kidney failure. Incidence of kidney failure was 16.8% among the 101 patients who took both drugs with a longer infusion time.

The overall acute kidney rate was 10.5% for all of the patients in the study. The renal failure rate was 13.5% for patients who took only piperacillin-tazobactam with the shorter infusion time, and 8.5% for the longer infusion time.

The kidney failure rate for patients who took only vancomycin was 4.9%.

The results highlight the need to consider alternative medication therapies whenever appropriate, according to the study researchers.


1. South Dakota State University. Pharmacists’ study helps prevent antibiotic-induced kidney failure. December 2, 2015.