Healthy lifestyle choices — including diet, exercise and weight control — provide the foundation for managing type 2 diabetes. However, you may need medications to achieve target blood sugar (glucose) levels. Sometimes a single medication is effective. In other cases, a combination of medications works better.
The list of medications for type 2 diabetes is long and potentially confusing. Learning about these drugs — how they're taken, what they do and what side effects they may cause — will help you discuss treatment options with your doctor.
Diabetes treatment: Lowering blood sugar
Several classes of type 2 diabetes medicines exist. Each works in different ways to lower blood sugar. A drug may work by:
- Stimulating the pancreas to produce and release more insulin
- Inhibiting the production and release of glucose from the liver
- Blocking the action of stomach enzymes that break down carbohydrates
- Improving the sensitivity of cells to insulin
- Inhibiting the reabsorption of glucose in the kidneys
- Slowing how quickly food moves through the stomach
Each class of medicine has one or more drugs. Some of these drugs are taken orally, while others must be injected.
Sep. 20, 2014
See more In-depth
- Papadakis MA, ed., et al. Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment 2014. 53rd ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2014. http://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com/book.aspx?bookId=330. Accessed July 27, 2014.
- Oral medications: What are my options? American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/medication/oral-medications/what-are-my-options.html. Accessed July 27, 2014.
- Meglitinide. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/medicines_ez/insert_H.aspx . Accessed July 28, 2014.
- Ismail-Beigi F. Glycemic management of type 2 diabetes mellitus. New England Journal of Medicine. 2012;366:1319.
- DPP-4 inhibitor: Dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP-4) inhibitor. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/medicines_ez/insert_G.aspx. Accessed July 27, 2014.
- Standards of medical care in diabetes — 2014. Diabetes Care. 2014;37:s14.
- McCulloch DK. Thiazolidinediones in the treatment of diabetes mellitus. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed July 27, 2014.
- Alpha-glucosidase inhibitor. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/medicines_ez/insert_D.aspx. Accessed July 28, 2014.
- McCulloch DK. Management of persistent hyperglycemia in type 2 diabetes mellitus. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed July 27, 2014.
- FDA approves Jardiance to treat type 2 diabetes. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm407637.htm. Accessed Aug. 3, 2014.
- Other injectable medications. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/medication/insulin/other-injectable-medications.html. Accessed July 27, 2014.
- Amylin mimetic. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/medicines_ez/insert_L.aspx. Accessed July 28, 2014.
- Incretin mimetic. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/medicines_ez/insert_M.aspx. Accessed July 28, 2014.