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 medicine Also called
  • Medication for type 2 diabetes
  • Accarb®
  • Glucobay®
  • Acarbocin®

What is acarbose?

  • Acarbose is used to treat type 2 diabetes. It may be used by itself, or it may be combined with other diabetes pills or with insulin. Read more about diabetes.
  • Acarbose 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).   
  • Acarbose is available as tablets.


  • The starting dose of acarbose is 50 milligrams 3 times a day.
  • Depending on your blood glucose level, your doctor may increase your dose 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.

Precautions — before taking acarbose

Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine can only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start taking acarbose let your doctor know if you have any of the following:

  • Any problems with the way your kidney or liver works.
  • You are pregnant or breast-feeding.
  • Any problems with your stomach (tummy) such as inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease, or any recent operations on your tummy.

Possible side effects

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

Side effects What 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 before starting acarbose or before starting any new medicines.

Learn more

Medsafe Consumer Information Sheet


  1. Acarbose New Zealand Formulary [accessed April 2017]
  2. Managing patients with type 2 diabetes: from lifestyle to insulin BPAC Dec 2015
  3. Glucobay Medsafe Datasheet
Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Dr J Bycroft. Health Navigator NZ Last reviewed: 12 Jan 2018