Cheap drug protects against contrast-induced nephropathy

As the number of patients undergoing contrast-enhanced CT scans grows, so does the risk of contrast-induced nephropathy. How to protect patients? By asking them to pop an N-acetylcysteine (NAC) pill before the exam.

Principal investigator Dr. Aine M. Kelly and colleagues at the University of Michigan Medical School analyzed data from 41 studies that evaluated several kidney-protecting drugs. They found that patients who took NAC could avoid serious kidney damage caused by iodine-based contrast agents. The drug costs about 25¢ for a 500 mg dose and is available in most pharmacies. The investigators also found NAC outperforms other medicines used for the same purpose. Findings were published in the Feb. 19 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.