Gastroenterology: Medications

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All About Carafate

Many patients are not as well-informed about prescription medications as they ought to be. We believe that the more you know about your medications, the better. Therefore, we have written this leaflet to explain more about Carafate and to explain the importance of taking it properly.

If any of this information causes you concern or if you want additional information about your medicine and its use, please check with your doctor or pharmacist.

Remember to keep all prescription drugs beyond the sight and reach of children when not in use. Store all drugs in their original labeled containers; the place of storage should be cool, dry, and away from light. Always read the label before each use.

What is Carafate?

Introduced in 1981, Carafate is a synthetic compound that is taken by mouth to treat and prevent ulcers of the stomach and duodenum. It is often used to treat gastritis (inflammation) of the stomach. Carafate is also helpful in treating the heartburn-like discomfort of esophagitis, a condition caused by stomach acid regurgitating up into the esophagus.

Sucralfate (soo-KRAL-fate) is the chemical name for this drug. It is still under protected patent and not yet available in generic form.

What Carafate is not.

Carafate is not habit-forming. It does not cause drowsiness or sexual dysfunction. It is not an antacid.

How does Carafate work?

Unlike Zantac, Carafate does not work by reducing the amount of acid produced by the stomach, nor does it neutralize stomach acid as does Maalox. Instead, Carafate tablets dissolve inside the stomach to form a protective coating on the inner lining. This barrier prevents the stomach lining from being attacked by digestive juices and allows the natural healing process to occur.

Taking Carafate properly

    1. Take the dose as prescribed. There is no fixed rule for the correct dose of Carafate. Each case is different. Initially, your doctor will determine what dose is best for you on the basis of your age, weight, the activity of your disease, and any other medical conditions that you may have. Generally, most adults require one to four tablets of Carafate per day.

    Do not alter the dose on your own. Your doctor will routinely reassess what dose is necessary for you. The goal, of course, is to effectively control your illness with the lowest possible dose of Carafate.

    2. Do not miss doses. If you do miss a dose, however, simply skip it and resume your normal schedule with the following dose.

    3. Carafate must be taken on an empty stomach. If food is inside your stomach when you take Carafate, the medication will coat the surface of the food and not the lining of your stomach. Then it will not form a protective barrier. Therefore, you must always take Carafate on an empty stomach. Take it only with water about 30 minutes before meals. A bedtime dose is also often prescribed. Do not eat or drink anything else for 30 minutes after each dose. The tablets may be crushed for easier swallowing, if desired.

    4. Do not stop taking this medication on your own. You should complete the full course of treatment that your doctor has prescribed for you. Keep taking Carafate even if your symptoms quickly disappear. For example, the painful symptoms of an ulcer can improve on Carafate long before the ulcer crater has completely healed, a process that usually takes from 4 to 8 weeks.

    5. Carafate can also be taken safely on a long-term basis. In addition to its use in short-term treatment, Carafate is often prescribed as long-term therapy to prevent gastritis, peptic ulcers, and reflux esophagitis. It can be given safely for years if necessary.

    5. Take a vitamin supplement. Since Carafate may decrease the absorption of vitamins A, D, E, and K, we suggest any patient using Carafate longer than 3 months take a multivitamin daily.

What are the side effects?

All medicines - even those purchased without a prescription - may sometimes produce unwanted side effects. In general, significant side effects from Carafate have been quite rare. Apart from constipation which occurs in about 2% of patients, Carafate does not have any serious side effects.

You can help to limit any possible side effects by taking the medication exactly as prescribed and by promptly reporting any problems to your doctor. It is important that you keep all scheduled appointments so that your doctor can regularly evaluate your response to the medication.


As antacids like Maalox can temporarily decrease the effectiveness of Carafate, you should take any needed antacids at least 2 hours before or after your dose of Carafate.

Carafate can also delay the absorption of other drugs such as Tagamet, Dilantin, Cipro, and Tetracyline antibiotics. All prescription drugs should be taken at least 2 hours before or after your dose of Carafate.

Since tobacco blocks the beneficial effects of Carafate, you should not smoke or chew tobacco when taking this drug.

While Carafate is quite effective in healing peptic ulcers, gastritis, and reflux esophagitis, its protective effects cease when the medication is discontinued. Therefore, be alert to the possibility of recurrence whenever you stop taking this drug. If you suspect that your problem has returned, contact your doctor.


Carafate is a safe and effective medication. Significant side effects are rare. You can obtain the maximal benefits of this drug by taking it exactly as prescribed. If you have any questions or concerns about Carafate, do not hesitate to discuss them with your doctor.

Text & Images Courtesy of Three Rivers Endoscopy Center
© Dr. Robert Fusco, Three Rivers Endoscopy Center, All Rights Reserved

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