Easy-to-read medicine information about colecalciferol – what it is, how to take it safely and possible side effects. Colecalciferol is also know as vitamin D3.
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What is colecalciferol?
Colecalciferol is a vitamin D supplement. It is prescribed if you have low vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is important for the absorption of calcium from your stomach and for the functioning of calcium in your body.
- A mild lack of vitamin D may not cause symptoms, but it can cause general aches and pains.
- An ongoing lack of vitamin D can increase your risk of weak, brittle bones and osteoporosis.
Colecalciferol works by helping your body absorb more calcium from your diet.
In New Zealand, colecalciferol is available as soft gelatin capsules (1.25 milligrams) and as a liquid.
Note: Colecalciferol is also available as a smaller dose in combination with alendronate, and is called Fosamax Plus or Alendronic Acid/Colecalciferol tablets. These tablets are taken once weekly for osteoporosis. Read more about these medicines.
Who might need colecalciferol?
If you are not getting enough vitamin D, your doctor may prescribe colecalciferol. Vitamin D is produced naturally in your body when your skin is exposed to sunlight. Most people get enough vitamin D this way. A small amount of vitamin D comes from foods such as oily fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna), eggs, margarine and some milk.
- In New Zealand, vitamin D levels are lowest during winter.
- Females tend to have lower vitamin D levels than males.
- People over the age of 70 years, particularly those in residential care, are exposed to less sunshine and have a reduced ability to make vitamin D.
- Māori and Pasifika have lower levels of vitamin D than do Pakeha/Europeans.
- People with darker skin, such as Africans and Indians, are likely to have lower levels of vitamin D.
- Obese people have lower levels of vitamin D than non-obese people.
Read more about vitamin D.
- The usual dose of colecalciferol is 1 capsule once a month.
- You may be asked to take 2 capsules as your first dose, followed by 1 capsule every month thereafter.
- Some people who have very low vitamin D may need higher doses, such as 1 capsule once a day for 10 days, followed by 1 capsule every month thereafter. If you have deficiency from liver disease you may need to continue to take a capsule daily.
- Your doctor may also advise you to have plenty of calcium in your diet.
- Always take your colecalciferol exactly as your doctor has told you. The pharmacy label on your medicine will tell you how much to take, how often to take it and any special instructions.
How to take colecalciferol
- If you have been advised to take colecalciferol once a month, choose a date that is easy for you to remember and mark it on the calendar, eg, the first day of each month or the last day of each month.
- Colecalciferol can be taken with or without food.
- If you forget to take your dose, take it as soon as you remember, even if it is a few days later. But, if it is nearly the day for your next dose, just take the next dose on the right day. Do not double the dose.
Precautions – before starting colecalciferol
- Do you have any allergy to peanuts or soy?
- Do you have problems with your kidneys?
- Do you have high calcium levels?
- Are taking any other medicines (including medicines you can buy without a prescription, as well as herbal and complementary medicines)?
If so, it’s important that you tell your doctor or pharmacist before you start colecalciferol. Sometimes a medicine isn’t suitable for a person with certain conditions, or it can only be used with extra care.
Blood tests and monitoring
Most people don't have their vitamin D level checked and can start colecalciferol safely without having a blood test. Your doctor will assess your risk of being vitamin D deficient (not getting enough vitamin D), and may prescribe colecalciferol if you are at higher risk. It is also not necessary have vitamin D levels checked while you are taking colecalciferol, as it can be safely given without this monitoring.
Like all medicines, colecalciferol can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them.
Peanut and soy allergy
Colecalciferol soft gelatin capsules contain soybean oil. Some medicines containing soybean oil might cause an allergic reaction in patients with a peanut or soy allergy. If you have a peanut or soy allergy, ensure that your doctor or pharmacist is aware of this and ask them to check your medicines. Read more Medsafe safety information.
Other side effects
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Some health supplements, multivitamin products and calcium supplements may also contain vitamin D, so check with your doctor or pharmacist before starting colecalciferol and before starting any new medicines.
Colecalciferol New Zealand Formulary Patient Information