What Is SPS? SPS (sodium polystyrene sulfonate) is an oral medication that treats hyperkalemia, meaning it lowers potassium levels that are too high. The drug is also known as a cation exchange resin because it works by absorbing potassium ions
SPS (sodium polystyrene sulfonate) is an oral medication that treats hyperkalemia, meaning it lowers potassium levels that are too high. The drug is also known as a cation exchange resin because it works by absorbing potassium ions in exchange for sodium ions in the intestine.
Sodium polystyrene sulfonate is available as a liquid or solution under Kionex and SPS brand names and as a powder under the brand name Kalexate. The brand name Kayexalate is no longer available. The powder form must be mixed with water or syrup to form a thick liquid before taking it by mouth.
Sodium polystyrene sulfonate is not available over the counter (OTC). A licensed healthcare provider will need to prescribe it for you.
Generic Name: Sodium polystyrene sulfonate
Brand Name(s): SPS, Kalexate, Kionex
Drug Availability: Prescription
Administration Route: Oral, Rectal
Therapeutic Classification: Exchange resin
Available Generically: Yes
Controlled Substance: N/A
Active Ingredient: Sodium polystyrene sulfonate
Dosage Form(s): Powder, suspension
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved sodium polystyrene sulfonate to treat hyperkalemia or high potassium levels. Potassium is an electrolyte essential for our bodies to function correctly.
Potassium levels are measured in milliequivalents per liter (mEq/L). A typical range for potassium is 3.5 to 5 milliequivalents per liter. Levels higher than this range, and specifically higher than 5.5 milliequivalents per liter, can lead to dangerous and abnormal heart rhythms (or arrhythmias), which can be fatal.
Sodium polystyrene sulfonate moves through your digestive tract releasing sodium, another electrolyte. The medicine absorbs excess potassium and removes it from your body in exchange for that sodium.
Sodium polystyrene sulfonate comes as a bottle of powder or a liquid. The powder is prepared by mixing a small amount with water or syrup to form a thick liquid taken by mouth. Depending on how high your potassium levels are, you may take this drug anywhere from one to four times a day. If you are using the powder form, only prepare one dose at a time. After the powder is mixed with water or syrup, it’s only good for 24 hours.
The suspension can be taken by mouth or rectally as an enema. Shake the suspension well before each use. Take your medication as prescribed by your healthcare provider.
If you take other medications by mouth, take them at least three hours before or three hours after you take sodium polystyrene sulfonate. It can bind with other drugs in the digestive tract and remove them before they’re able to do their job in your body.
Store sodium polystyrene sulfonate powder and suspension at room temperature (68 F to 77 F) with the lid on. Do not mix the powder with liquid until you’re ready to take your dose, as it’s only good for 24 hours after mixing.
If you’re traveling by plane, keep the medication in your carry-on luggage in case your checked luggage goes missing.
Sodium polystyrene sulfonate may take hours or days to lower your potassium levels, depending on how high they are. Ask your healthcare provider if you have questions about your potassium level, as it should be regularly monitored while you’re on this medication. This is also why sodium polystyrene sulfonate may not be the best choice for lowering potassium if it is emergently high.
This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. A healthcare provider can advise you on side effects. If you experience other effects, contact your healthcare provider. You may report side effects to the FDA at fda.gov/medwatch or 1-800-FDA-1088.
The side effects caused by SPS are most commonly gastrointestinal, particularly with higher or more frequent dosing. These include:
Call your healthcare provider right away if you have serious side effects. Call 911 if your symptoms feel life-threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency.
Serious side effects and their symptoms include:
If you experience severe side effects, such as fecal impaction or intestinal perforation, the treatment for these conditions may extend past when you stop taking sodium polystyrene sulfonate. But the medicine itself does not have lasting side effects.
SPS may cause other side effects. Call your healthcare provider if you have any unusual problems while taking this medication.
If you experience a serious side effect, you or your healthcare provider may send a report to the FDA's MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting Program or by phone (800-332-1088).
The dose of this medicine will be different for different patients. Follow your doctor's orders or the directions on the label. The following information includes only the average doses of this medicine. If your dose is different, do not change it unless your doctor tells you to do so.
The amount of medicine that you take depends on the strength of the medicine. Also, the number of doses you take each day, the time allowed between doses, and the length of time you take the medicine depend on the medical problem for which you are using the medicine.
There have been no adequate studies to determine sodium polystyrene sulfonate safety during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Since sodium polystyrene sulfonate stays in your digestive tract and is not absorbed into your bloodstream, it is unlikely to cause harm to your fetus or newborn. Nevertheless, it should only be used in pregnancy or when nursing if needed.
Caution should be used when giving sodium polystyrene sulfonate to children and newborns because it can become impacted (stuck) in their digestive tracts. It should not be given to newborns orally. Use cautiously when giving to children or newborns rectally.
If you forget to take a dose of sodium polystyrene sulfonate, you can take it as soon as you remember. If you are closer to your next dose than the dose you missed, go ahead and skip the missed dose and wait for your next scheduled one. For example, if you usually take sodium polystyrene sulfonate at 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., and you remember at 5 p.m. that you forgot your morning dose, wait and take your next dose that night at 9 p.m. Do not double up doses to make up for missed ones.
Taking too much sodium polystyrene sulfonate can cause your potassium or other electrolytes, like calcium or magnesium, to decrease to dangerously low levels. Signs and symptoms may include:
You should call 911 or go to the emergency room if you experience these, as you will likely need medical treatment to correct your electrolyte levels and remove the sodium polystyrene sulfonate from your system.
If you think you've taken too much sodium polystyrene sulfonate or someone else in your household swallows sodium polystyrene sulfonate, call a healthcare provider or contact the Poison Control Center (800-222-1222).
If you experience or someone else experiences the signs of an overdose, call 911.
It is very important that your doctor check you or your child closely to make sure that this medicine is working properly. Blood tests may be needed to check for unwanted effects.
Hypokalemia (low potassium in the blood) may occur while you are using this medicine. Check with your doctor right away if you have confusion, dry mouth, increased thirst, irregular heartbeat, irritability, muscle cramps, nausea or vomiting, or trouble breathing.
This medicine may cause a serious stomach or bowel problem, called intestinal necrosis. This is more likely to occur if you have a history of bowel disease, bowel surgery, low blood volume, kidney problems or if you take sorbitol together with this medicine. Tell your doctor right away if you or your child have severe constipation, severe stomach pain, bloody, black, or tarry stools, or vomit blood or a material that looks like coffee grounds.
Tell your doctor if you have unexplained weight gain or edema (fluid retention or body swelling) while using this medicine.
This medicine may cause lung or breathing problems (eg, bronchitis, bronchopneumonia) when you inhale its powder form. It may also increase your risk of having aspiration. Take this medicine in an upright position to prevent this. Talk to your doctor if you have questions.
If you are taking aluminum or magnesium-containing antacids or laxatives, talk to your doctor first before using them together with sodium polystyrene sulfonate. These medicines may keep sodium polystyrene sulfonate from working properly and may cause serious side effects.
Do not take other medicines unless they have been discussed with your doctor. This includes prescription or nonprescription (over-the-counter [OTC]) medicines and herbal or vitamin supplements.
The following are circumstances in which sodium polystyrene sulfonate should not be used:
Other medications that may interact with sodium polystyrene sulfonate include:
Some other drugs that work in the body by exchanging electrolytes to lower potassium levels include:
This is not a list of drugs recommended to take with sodium polystyrene sulfonate. In fact, you should not take these drugs together. Ask your pharmacist or a healthcare provider before using any of these drugs with sodium polystyrene sulfonate.
Sodium polystyrene sulfonate is used to lower potassium levels in the blood. Potassium is an electrolyte, and having too much of it in your blood can lead to abnormal and dangerous heart rhythms. Sodium polystyrene sulfonate is normally taken one to four times per day.
Sodium polystyrene sulfonate works by absorbing potassium in exchange for releasing sodium as it moves through the intestine. The potassium level is then lowered as the drug is removed from the body in the stool.
Sodium polystyrene sulfonate works in your digestive tract and does not get absorbed into your blood. Therefore, the most common side effects are gastrointestinal. These include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and constipation. Sodium polystyrene sulfonate has the potential to lower your potassium levels too much, which can also lead to abnormal heart rhythms. Your potassium level should be monitored regularly while you take this medication.
When they think about electrolytes, many people probably think about drinks like Gatorade or Pedialyte, but there’s more to electrolytes than just replenishing them with these drinks. Electrolyte levels in the body can be complicated and aren’t necessarily something many people are familiar with. But they are essential for things like the functioning of our muscles (including the heart), blood clotting, and bone health.
When taking sodium polystyrene sulfonate, it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms that indicate a change in your potassium or other electrolyte levels. Be sure to watch for;
Speak with your healthcare provider if you have questions about how your electrolyte levels are being monitored.
Verywell Health's drug information is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a healthcare provider. Consult your healthcare provider before taking any new medication(s). IBM Watson Micromedex provides some of the drug content, as indicated on the page.