Compare diabetes medications

Here's an at-a-glance comparison of common diabetes medications. More medications are available depending on your needs and situation. Ask your doctor about your options and the pros and cons of each.

Oral medications

Meglitinides
  • Medications
    • Repaglinide (Prandin)
    • Nateglinide (Starlix)
  • Action
    • Stimulate the release of insulin
  • Advantages
    • Work quickly
  • Possible side effects
    • Severely low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
    • Weight gain
    • Nausea
    • Back pain
    • Headache
Sulfonylureas
  • Medications
    • Glipizide (Glucotrol)
    • Glimepiride (Amaryl)
    • Glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase)
  • Action
    • Stimulate the release of insulin
  • Advantages
    • Work quickly
  • Possible side effects
    • Hypoglycemia
    • Weight gain
    • Nausea
    • Skin rash
Dipeptidy peptidase-4 (DPP-4) inhibitors
  • Medications
    • Saxagliptin (Onglyza)
    • Sitagliptin (Januvia)
    • Linagliptin (Tradjenta)
  • Action
    • Stimulate the release of insulin
    • Inhibit the release of glucose from the liver
  • Advantages
    • Don't cause weight gain
  • Possible side effects
    • Upper respiratory tract infection
    • Sore throat
    • Headache
    • Inflammation of the pancreas (sitagliptin)
Biguanides
  • Medications
    • Metformin (Fortamet, Glucophage, others)
  • Action
    • Inhibit the release of glucose from the liver
    • Improve sensitivity to insulin
  • Advantages
    • May promote modest weight loss and modest decline in low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or "bad," cholesterol
  • Possible side effects
    • Nausea
    • Diarrhea
    • Rarely, the harmful buildup of lactic acid (lactic acidosis)
Thiazolidinediones
  • Medications
    • Rosiglitazone (Avandia)
    • Pioglitazone (Actos)
  • Action
    • Improve sensitivity to insulin
    • Inhibit the release of glucose from the liver
  • Advantages
    • May slightly increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good," cholesterol
  • Possible side effects
    • Heart failure
    • Heart attack
    • Stroke
    • Liver disease
Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors
  • Medications
    • Acarbose (Precose)
    • Miglitol (Glyset)
  • Action
    • Slow the breakdown of starches and some sugars
  • Advantages
    • Don't cause weight gain
  • Possible side effects
    • Stomach pain
    • Gas
    • Diarrhea

Injectable medications

Amylin mimetics
  • Medications
    • Pramlintide (Symlin)
  • Action
    • Stimulate the release of insulin
    • Used with insulin injections
  • Advantages
    • May suppress hunger
    • May promote modest weight loss
  • Possible side effects
    • Hypoglycemia
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Headache
    • Redness and irritation at injection site
Incretin mimetics
  • Medications
    • Exenatide (Byetta)
    • Liraglutide (Victoza)
  • Action
    • Stimulate the release of insulin
    • Used with metformin and sulfonylurea
  • Advantages
    • May suppress hunger
    • May promote modest weight loss
  • Possible side effects
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Headache
    • Dizziness
    • Kidney damage or failure

How to choose your diabetes medication

No single diabetes treatment is best for everyone, and what works for one person may not work for another. Your doctor can determine how a specific medication or multiple medications may fit into your overall diabetes treatment plan and help you understand the advantages and disadvantages of specific diabetes drugs.

Oct. 22, 2011 See more In-depth