Medicine & USMLE

Alpha Glucosidase Inhibitors

Diabetes Drugs
  1. Insulin Overview
  2. Rapid Acting Insulin
  3. Short Acting Insulin
  4. Intermediate Acting Insulin
  5. Long Acting Insulin
  6. Metformin
  7. Sulfonylureas
  8. Meglitinides
  9. Thiazolidinediones (TZDs)
  10. DPP-4 Inhibitors
  11. Incretin Mimetics
  12. SGLT2 Inhibitors
  13. Alpha Glucosidase Inhibitors
  14. Pramlintide


Alpha glucosidase inhibitors include the drugs acarbose and miglitol and are used to treat type 2 diabetes mellitus. They do this by blocking carbohydrate absorption. Alpha glucosidase inhibitors cause intestinal side effects like abdominal discomfort, flatulence, and diarrhea. Other side effects include liver damage and anemia. Alpha glucosidase inhibitors should be taken with every meal.

Key Points

  • Alpha Glucosidase Inhibitors
    • Drug Names
      • Acarbose (Precose)
      • Miglitol (Glyset)
    • Mechanism
      • Blocks carbohydrate absorption and digestion
        • Targets an enzyme (alpha glucosidase) in the intestines that normally breaks down complex carbohydrates into smaller glucose molecules. By blocking this enzyme, alpha glucosidase inhibitors slow the rise of blood glucose levels after a meal.
    • Clinical Use
      • Treats Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus
        • The end result of alpha glucosidase inhibitors is a decrease in blood glucose levels in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus
    • Side Effects
      • Gastrointestinal effects
        • Causes flatulence
          • Carbohydrates buildup in the intestines, creating a buildup of gas that leads to flatulence
          • Contraindicated with several gastrointestinal diseases
        • Causes diarrhea
        • Causes abdominal discomfort
          • Cramping, pain, bloating,etc
          • Carbohydrates buildup in the intestines, creating a buildup of gas that leads to abdominal discomfort.
      • Causes anemia
        • Alpha glucosidase inhibitors affect the absorption of iron
        • Without enough iron, the body can’t produce enough red blood cells, causing anemia
      • Causes liver damage
        • When taken long-term
        • Monitor liver function tests (AST, ALT) during treatment
    • Administration
      • Take with meals
        • Should be taken with the first bite of food