Generic Name: acarbose, Oral tablet

Generic Name:

acarbose, Oral tablet

Precose

All Brands

  • Precose
SECTION 1 of 5

Highlights for acarbose

Oral tablet
1

Acarbose is used to help lower your blood sugar level.

2

It works by slowing the action of certain enzymes that break food down into sugars. This helps to keep your blood sugar levels from rising too high after you eat.

3

The most common side effects that occur with acarbose include stomach pain, diarrhea, and stomach gas.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

Pneumatosis cystoides intestinals

These are gas-filled cysts on the wall of your intestines. They are a rare but serious complication of using acarbose. Symptoms include diarrhea, mucus discharge, rectal bleeding, and constipation. You need to let your doctor know immediately if you experience these symptoms.

Allergic skin reaction

Rarely, using acarbose can cause an allergic skin reaction. Symptoms include rash, redness, and swelling.

Liver problems

Rarely, acarbose can cause liver damage. Symptoms can include yellowing of the whites of your eyes or skin, stomach swelling, or pain in the upper right portion of your stomach.

Drug Features

Acarbose is a prescription medication. It’s available as an oral tablet.

It’s also available in a generic version. Generic drugs usually cost less. In some cases they may not be available in every strength or form as the brand. Talk to your healthcare provider to see if the generic will work for you.

This drug may be used as part of a combination therapy. That means you may need to take it with other drugs.

Why It's Used

Acarbose is used to help lower your blood sugar with the help of diet and exercise.

How It Works

Acarbose belongs to a class of drugs called alpha-glucosidase inhibitor.

More Details

How It Works

Acarbose belongs to a class of drugs called alpha-glucosidase inhibitor. It works by slowing the action of certain enzymes that break food down into sugars. This slows down digestion of carbohydrates to keep your blood sugar from rising very high after you eat.

SECTION 2 of 5

acarbose Side Effects

Oral tablet

Most Common Side Effects

The most common side effects from using acarbose include:

  • stomach pain

  • diarrhea

  • flatulence or gas

Serious Side Effects

If you experience any of these serious side effects, call your doctor right away. If your symptoms are potentially life threatening or if you think you’re experiencing a medical emergency, call 9-1-1.

  • allergic skin reaction. Symptoms may include:

    • rash
    • redness
    • swelling of your skin
  • liver problems. Symptoms may include:

    • yellowing of the whites of your eyes or skin
    • stomach swelling
    • pain in the upper right portion of your stomach
  • pneumatosis cystoides intestinals. These are gas-filled cysts on the wall of your intestines. They can cause intestinal problems, such as holes, blockage, or bleeding. Symptoms may include:

    • diarrhea
    • mucus discharge
    • rectal bleeding
    • constipation
Pharmacist's Advice
Healthline Pharmacist Editorial Team

Acarbose does not cause drowsiness.

Acarbose has predictable post-dose side effects. The most common side effects of stomach pain, flatulence, and diarrhea usually develop the first few weeks after taking acarbose. These should decrease as you continue to take the medication.

Mild side effects may go away within a few days or a couple of weeks. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if they’re more severe or don’t go way.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs affect each person differently, we cannot guarantee that this information includes all possible side effects. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always discuss possible side effects with a healthcare provider who knows your medical history.
SECTION 3 of 5

acarbose May Interact with Other Medications

Oral tablet

Acarbose can interact with other medications, herbs, or vitamins you might be taking. That’s why your doctor should manage all of your medications carefully. If you’re curious about how this drug might interact with something else you’re taking, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Note: You can reduce your chances of drug interactions by having all of your prescriptions filled at the same pharmacy. That way, a pharmacist can check for possible drug interactions.

Alcohol Interaction

Alcohol can affect your blood sugar level. It can both increase the risk of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) as well as increasing your blood sugar levels by serving as an additional source of carbohydrates. Talk with your doctor before drinking alcohol.

Medications That Might Interact with This Drug

Diabetes drugs
  • sulfonylurea
  • insulin

When you take these drugs with acarbose, your blood sugar level can get too low (hypoglycemia). Signs of hypoglycemia may include fast heart rate, confusion, hunger, sweating, shaking, or feeling weak and dizzy.

Use glucose tablets or liquid glucose to help manage a hypoglycemic event while you’re taking acarbose. Cane sugar (sucrose) won’t work to treat hypoglycemia while you’re taking acarbose. Use oral glucose (dextrose) products instead.

Thyroid drug
  • levothyroxine

Taking this drug may affect your blood sugar level. Your doctor will adjust your diabetes medications accordingly.

Estrogens and oral contraceptives
  • ethinyl estradiol/norgestimate (Ortho Tri-Cyclen, Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo, Ortho-Cyclen, Tri-Sprintec, MonoNessa)
  • ethinyl estradiol/levonorgestrel (Seasonale, Seasonique, Levlen, Lessina, Levora)
  • ethinyl estradiol/norethindrone (Aranelle, Leena, Estrostep Fe, Loestrin, Microgestin)
  • ethinyl estradiol/drospirenone (Gianvi, Ocella, Yasmin, Yaz, Zarah)

Taking these drugs may affect your blood sugar level. Your doctor will adjust your diabetes medications accordingly.

Water retention drugs
  • thiazide diuretics:
    • hydrochlorothiazide
    • chlorthalidone
  • loop diuretics:
    • furosemide
    • bumetanide
    • torsemide
  • triamterene

Taking these drugs may cause your blood sugar level to get too high (hyperglycemia).

Antibiotics
  • quinolone antibiotics:
    • gatifloxacin

Don’t take gatifloxacin with acarbose. When you take gatifloxacin with acarbose, your blood sugar levels can be significantly affected.

Corticosteroids
  • hydrocortisone
  • prednisone
  • prednisolone
  • methylprednisolone

Taking these drugs may cause your blood sugar level to get too high (hyperglycemia).

Antipsychotic drugs
  • chlorpromazine (Thorazine)
  • aripiprazole (Abilify)
  • clozapine (Clozaril)
  • olanzapine (Zyprexa)
  • quetiapine (Seroquel)
  • risperidone (Risperdal)
  • ziprasidone (Geodon)

Taking these drugs may cause your blood sugar level to get too high (hyperglycemia).

Seizure drugs
  • phenytoin
  • fosphenytoin

These medications may affect your blood sugar level.

Nicotinic acid
  • niacin

Taking this medication can cause your blood sugar level to get too high (hyperglycemia).

Sympathomimetics
  • pseudoephedrine
  • phenylephrine

Taking these drugs may cause your blood sugar level to get too high (hyperglycemia).

Blood pressure drugs
  • beta blockers, such as:
    • metoprolol
    • bisoprolol
    • atenolol
    • nadolol
    • propranolol

Taking these drugs may cause your blood sugar level to get too high (hyperglycemia). They can delay how long it takes for your blood sugar to return to normal. Beta blockers can also mask some of the signs of low blood sugar, such as higher than normal heart rate, palpitations, and shakiness.

Tuberculosis drug
  • isoniazid

Taking this drug may cause your blood sugar level to get too high (hyperglycemia).

Heart problem drug
  • digoxin

When taken with acarbose, the levels of digoxin in your body change. If you take acarbose and digoxin, your doses of digoxin may need to be adjusted by your doctor.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs interact differently in each person, we cannot guarantee that this information includes all possible interactions. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always speak with your healthcare provider about possible interactions with all prescription drugs, vitamins, herbs and supplements, and over-the-counter drugs that you are taking.

People with diabetic ketoacidosis

Don’t take this medication if you have diabetic ketoacidosis. Diabetic ketoacidosis is a serious condition that can result in unconsciousness and potentially death. Symptoms of this condition develop slowly. They include dry mouth or being very thirsty, high blood sugar levels, and urinating frequently. If you begin vomiting and suspect you have this condition, call your doctor or go to the hospital immediately. This condition can become life threatening within a few hours once you’re vomiting.

People with cirrhosis or liver disease

Don’t take acarbose if you have cirrhosis or severe liver disease. Taking acarbose could make your condition worse.

People with intestinal disease

If you have certain intestinal diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease, colonic ulceration, partial intestinal obstruction, or if you’re predisposed to intestinal obstruction, you shouldn’t take acarbose. Taking it could make your condition worse.

People who take insulin or a sulfonylurea

When acarbose is taken with these other drugs, it may increase your risk for developing low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Signs of hypoglycemia may include fast heart rate, confusion, hunger, sweating, shaking, or feeling weak and dizzy. Use glucose tablets or liquid glucose to help manage a hypoglycemic event while taking acarbose. Cane sugar (sucrose) won’t work to treat your hypoglycemia while you’re taking acarbose. Use oral glucose (dextrose) products instead.

Pregnant women

Acarbose is a pregnancy category B drug. That means two things:

  1. Studies of the drug in pregnant animals have not shown risk to the fetus.
  2. There aren’t enough studies done in pregnant women to show the drug poses a risk to the fetus.

Tell your doctor if you’re pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Acarbose should be used during pregnancy only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus.

Women who are nursing

Research on lactating rats has shown small amounts of acarbose in the rat milk. It isn’t known if acarbose passes through human breast milk. You and your doctor should decide if you’ll take acarbose or breastfeed.

For Children

The safety and effectiveness of acarbose in people younger than 18 years haven’t been proved.

Allergies

Acarbose can cause a severe allergic reaction. Symptoms may include:

  • skin swelling and redness
  • hives
  • itching
  • rash
  • fever
  • trouble breathing or chest tightness
  • blistering or peeling skin
  • swelling of your mouth, face, lips, tongue, or throat

Don’t take this drug again if you’ve ever had an allergic reaction to it. Taking it again could be fatal.

SECTION 4 of 5

How to Take acarbose (Dosage)

Oral tablet

There is no fixed dosage of acarbose for the treatment of diabetes. Your dose is unique to you. It’s based on effectiveness and how well you tolerate the drug. Your dose should be started at a low dose and increased gradually to help lower its stomach side effects.

What Are You Taking This Medication For?

Type 2 diabetes
Form: Oral tablet
Strength: 25 mg, 50 mg, and 100 mg
Adult Dosage (ages 18 years and older)
  • The initial dose is 25 mg taken three times per day with the first bite of each main meal.
  • This dose may be increased up to 100 mg taken three times per day with the first bite of each main meal.
Child Dosage (ages 0–17 years)

Dosage hasn’t been established for people younger than 18 years.

Special Considerations

People who weigh 132 pounds (60 kg) or less: You’re at increased risk of having an increase in liver enzymes from taking this medication. The maximum dose is 50 mg taken three times per day with the first bite of each main meal.

Poor kidney function: If your kidney function decreases below a certain cut-off, your doctor may stop your acarbose and switch you to a more appropriate diabetes medication.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs affect each person differently, we cannot guarantee that this list includes all possible dosages. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always to speak with your doctor or pharmacist about dosages that are right for you.
Pharmacist's Advice
Healthline Pharmacist Editorial Team

Acarbose comes with risks if you don't take it as prescribed.

If You Don't Take It At All

If you don’t take acarbose as prescribed by your doctor, you may not be able to control the sugar levels in your blood. This can lead to dangerous complications that result from uncontrolled diabetes. These include nerve damage, heart disease, heart attack, stroke, and damage to your eyes and kidneys.

What to Do If You Miss a Dose

If you forget to take acarbose with the first bite of your meal and you’re still eating that meal, take it while you’re still eating. If you remember your missed your dose after eating, skip the missed dose. This medication won’t work unless you take it during a meal.

At the time for your next dose, take only one dose. Never try to catch up by taking two tablets at once. This could result in toxic side effects.

How to Tell If the Drug Is Working

You may be able to tell this drug is working if it lowers your blood sugar. You can test your own blood sugar level at home with a glucose meter 1 hour after eating.

This is a long-term treatment.

You need to take this medication with food

Acarbose only works when there’s food in your stomach. Take it with your first bite of each main meal.

Don’t crush this tablet

Crushing it may cause more stomach problems like bloating, gas, or stomach pain.

Store at room temperature: under 77°F (25ºC)

Don’t freeze acarbose. Keep it away from high temperature.

Keep container tightly closed.

Keep your drugs away from areas where they could get wet, such as bathrooms. Store them away from moisture and damp locations.

Travel

When traveling with your medication:

  • Always carry it with you or in your carry-on bag.
  • Don’t worry about airport X-ray machines. They can’t hurt this medication.
  • You may need to show your pharmacy’s preprinted label to identify the medication. Keep the original prescription-labeled box with you when traveling.
  • Don’t put this medicine in your glove compartment or leave it in the car, especially when the temperature is hot or freezing.

Clinical Monitoring

Blood sugar level tests: Your doctor will check your blood sugar levels regularly to make sure acarbose is working for you. You may monitor your own blood sugar levels at home if your doctor has instructed you to use a blood glucose meter.

Liver function tests: Your doctor will check your liver function with blood tests before you take acarbose and during treatment. It’s important to have a starting liver function test to know what your usual liver function is. Later tests will be compared to the first one to see if any changes in liver function have happened. If your liver function is bad or gets worse during therapy, acarbose may not be right for you.

Your Diet

Follow the diabetic diet suggested by your doctor or nutritionist. If you don’t, you may have more stomach side effects while taking acarbose.

Are There Any Alternatives?

There are other drugs available to treat your condition. Some may be more suitable for you than others. Talk to your doctor about possible alternatives.

What does the pill look like?

Showing - out of 17
SECTION 5 of 5

How Much Does acarbose Cost?

Oral tablet
We've partnered with GoodRX so you can compare prices and save money on your next prescription. Check out the lowest cash prices below and enter your zip code to find the best deal near you.

Compare prices and save money on your next refill!

Lowest price for acarbose

Sams Club $10.00
Walgreens $36.64
Rite-Aid $40.24
These represent the lowest cash prices for acarbose and may be lower than your insurance.

Find the lowest prices of acarbose near you

These represent the lowest cash prices for acarbose and may be lower than your insurance.

Show Sources

Content developed in collaboration with University of Illinois-Chicago, Drug Information Group

Medically reviewed by Creighton University, Center for Drug Information and Evidence-Based Practice on June 18, 2015

Disclaimer: Healthline has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up-to-date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or other healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.

Read This Next

Why You Should Be Careful About Ginseng
Why You Should Be Careful About Ginseng
Diabetes: Can Fenugreek Lower My Blood Sugar?
Diabetes: Can Fenugreek Lower My Blood Sugar?
Coffee’s Effect on Diabetes
Coffee’s Effect on Diabetes
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement