Sounds like 'ah-KAR-bose'

Easy-to-read medicine information about acarbose – what it is, how to take acarbose safely and possible side effects.

Type of medicineAlso called
  •  Anti-diabetic medication
  • Accarb®
  • Glucobay®

What is acarbose?

  • Acarbose is used to treat diabetes. It works by slowing down the digestion of carbohydrates (sugars) from your diet and in this way lowers high blood sugar. To work properly acarbose must be taken at the start of a meal (with the first bites).   
  • Read more about diabetes.


  • The starting dose of acarbose is 50 milligrams 3 times a day.
  • Depending on your blood glucose level, your doctor may increase your dose gradually to 100 milligrams 3 times a day.   
  • Always take your acarbose exactly as your doctor has told you. The pharmacy label on your medicine will tell you how much acarbose to take, how often to take it, and any special instructions.

How to take acarbose

  • Chew your acarbose tablet with the first mouthfuls of food at each meal, or swallow the tablet whole with a little water just before your meal.
  • To control your diabetes, you must keep taking acarbose everyday.
  • Limit or avoid drinking alcohol while your are taking acarbose. It may affect the control of your blood glucose.
  • If you forget your dose with your meal, wait to take the next dose with your next meal or snack. Do not take double the dose.

Possible side effects

Like all medicines, acarbose can cause unwanted side effects, although not everyone gets them. Often unwanted side effects improve as your body gets used to the new medicine.

Side effectsWhat should I do?
  • Bloating or gas in the tummy,
  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhoea (loose, watery stools)
  • These are quite common when you first start taking acarbose, and usually go away with time.
  • Tell your doctor if troublesome.
  • Allergic reaction such as skin rash, itching, swelling of the lips, face, and mouth or difficulty breathing. 
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring HealthLine.
  • Signs of problems with your liver such as yellowing of the skin or eyes, dark urine, pain in the abdomen. 
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring HealthLine.


Acarbose may interact with a few medications and herbal supplements, so check with your doctor or pharmacist.

Learn more

Medsafe Consumer Information Sheet

Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Dr J Bycroft. Health Navigator NZ Last reviewed: 08 Jan 2015