Diabetes treatment: Medications for type 2 diabetes

By Mayo Clinic Staff

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

Each class of medicine has one or more drugs. Some of these drugs are taken orally, while others must be injected. And some type 2 diabetes pills contain a combination of two classes of drugs.

Oct. 22, 2011 See more In-depth