Colecalciferol

Sounds like 'Co-lee-cal-SIF-er-ol'

Easy-to-read medicine information about colecalciferol – what is it, how to take it safely and possible side effects. Colecalciferol is also know as vitamin D3.

Type of medicine Also called
  • Vitamin D supplement
  • Vit D3
  • Puria Vitamin D
  • Also included in medicines such as Fosamax Plus®

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 the stomach and for the functioning of calcium in the 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 a liquid. 

Note: Colecalciferol is also available as a smaller dose in combination with alendronate called Fosamax Plus or Alendronic Acid/Colecalciferol tablets. These tablets are taken once weekly for osteoporosis. Read more about these medications.

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 pigmentation, 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.

Dose

  • 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 it 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. For example, the 1st 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 soya?
  • Do you have problems with your kidneys?
  • Do you have high calcium levels?
  • Are taking any other medicines? This includes any medicines you are taking that 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.

Possible side effects

Like all medicines, colecalciferol can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them. 

Peanut and soya allergy

Colecalciferol soft gelatin capsules contain soya oil. Some medicines containing soya oil might cause an allergic reaction in patients with a peanut or soya allergy. If you have a peanut or soya allergy, ensure that your doctor or pharmacist is aware of this and ask them to check your medicines. Read more on Medsafe safety information.

Other side effects

Side effects What should I do?
  • Signs of too much vitamin D such as tummy pain, headache, confusion, dry mouth, irregular heartbeat, muscle pain, increased thirst, decreased appetite, nausea (feeling sick), vomiting (being sick), diarrhoea (runny poos), increased sweating
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring HealthLine 0800 611 116
  • Sign of an allergic reaction such as:
    • an itchy sensation inside your mouth, throat or ears
    • a raised itchy red rash (urticaria, or 'hives')
    • swelling of your face, around your eyes, lips, tongue and roof of your mouth (angioedema)
    • vomiting
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring HealthLine 0800 611 116

Interactions

Some health supplements, multivitamin products and calcium supplements may also contain vitamin D, so check with your doctor or pharmacist before starting colecalciferol or before starting any new medicines.

Learn more

New Zealand Formulary Patient Information: Colecalciferol

References

  1. Colecalciferol New Zealand Formulary
  2. Vitamin D supplementation: navigating the debate BPAC, 2011
  3. Vitamin D New Zealand Formulary
Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland Last reviewed: 30 Jan 2019