GENERIC NAME: acarbose
BRAND NAME: Precose
DRUG CLASS AND MECHANISM: Acarbose is an oral medication that is used to control blood glucose (sugar) levels in people type II diabetes. It belongs to a class of drugs called alpha-glucosidase inhibitors which also includes miglitol (Glyset). Carbohydrates that are eaten are digested by enzymes in the intestine into smaller sugars which are absorbed into the body and increase blood sugar levels. The process of carbohydrate digestion requires the pancreas to release into the intestine alpha-amylase enzymes which digest the large carbohydrates into smaller carbohydrates called oligosaccharides. The cells lining the small intestine then release alpha-glucosidase enzymes that further digest the oligosaccharides into smaller sugars, like glucose, that can be absorbed. Acarbose is a man-made oligosaccharide designed to slow down the actions of alpha-amylase and alpha-glucosidase enzymes, thereby slowing the appearance of sugar in the blood after a meal. The FDA approved acarbose in September 1995.
PRESCRIBED FOR: Acarbose is used in conjunction with diet and exercise for reducing blood sugar in patients with type 2 diabetes. Acarbose can be used alone to treat type 2 diabetes or can be combined with sulfonylureas such as glyburide (Diabeta) or metformin (Glucophage) or with insulin.
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