Diabetes is a condition that leads to high levels of blood glucose (or sugar) in the body.
This happens when your body can’t make or use insulin like it’s supposed to. Insulin is a substance that helps your body use the sugar from the food you eat.
There are two different types of diabetes: type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. People with either type of diabetes need medications to help keep their blood sugar levels normal.
The types of drugs depend on the type of diabetes you have. This article gives you information about drugs that treat both types of diabetes to help give you an idea of the treatment options available to you.
Medications for type 2 diabetes
If you have type 2 diabetes, your body makes insulin but no longer uses it well.
Your body can’t make enough insulin to keep your blood sugar levels normal. The goal of treatment for you is to help your body use your insulin better or to get rid of extra sugar in your blood.
Most medications for type 2 diabetes are oral drugs. However, a few come as injections. Some people with type 2 diabetes may also need to take insulin.
These medications help your body break down starchy foods and table sugar. This effect lowers your blood sugar levels.
For the best results, you should take these drugs before meals. These drugs include:
- acarbose (Precose)
- miglitol (Glyset)
Biguanides decrease how much sugar your liver makes. They decrease how much sugar your intestines absorb, make your body more sensitive to insulin, and help your muscles absorb glucose.
The most common biguanide is metformin (Glucophage, Metformin Hydrochloride ER, Glumetza, Riomet, Fortamet).
Metformin can also be combined with other drugs for type 2 diabetes. It’s an ingredient in the following medications:
- metformin-alogliptin (Kazano)
- metformin-canagliflozin (Invokamet)
- metformin-dapagliflozin (Xigduo XR)
- metformin-empagliflozin (Synjardy)
- metformin-glyburide (Glucovance)
- metformin-linagliptin (Jentadueto)
- metformin-pioglitazone (Actoplus)
- metformin-repaglinide (PrandiMet)
- metformin-rosiglitazone (Avandamet)
- metformin-saxagliptin (Kombiglyze XR)
- metformin-sitagliptin (Janumet)
Bromocriptine (Cycloset) is a dopamine agonist.
It’s not known exactly how this drug works to treat type 2 diabetes. It may affect rhythms in your body and prevent insulin resistance.
DPP-4 inhibitors help the body continue to make insulin. They work by reducing blood sugar without causing hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
These drugs can also help the pancreas make more insulin. These drugs include:
- alogliptin (Nesina)
- alogliptin-metformin (Kazano)
- alogliptin-pioglitazone (Oseni)
- linagliptin (Tradjenta)
- linagliptin-empagliflozin (Glyxambi)
- linagliptin-metformin (Jentadueto)
- saxagliptin (Onglyza)
- saxagliptin-metformin (Kombiglyze XR)
- sitagliptin (Januvia)
- sitagliptin-metformin (Janumet and Janumet XR)
- sitagliptin and simvastatin (Juvisync)
Glucagon-like peptides (incretin mimetics)
These drugs are similar to the natural hormone called incretin.
They increase B-cell growth and how much insulin your body uses. They decrease your appetite and how much glucagon your body uses. They also slow stomach emptying.
These are all important actions for people with diabetes.
These drugs include:
- albiglutide (Tanzeum)
- dulaglutide (Trulicity)
- exenatide (Byetta)
- exenatide extended-release (Bydureon)
- liraglutide (Victoza)
- semaglutide (Ozempic)
These medications help your body release insulin. However, in some cases, they may lower your blood sugar too much.
These drugs aren’t for everyone. They include:
- nateglinide (Starlix)
- repaglinide (Prandin)
- repaglinide-metformin (Prandimet)
Sodium glucose transporter (SGLT) 2 inhibitors
These drugs work by preventing the kidneys from holding on to glucose. Instead, your body gets rid of the glucose through your urine.
These drugs include:
- dapagliflozin (Farxiga)
- dapagliflozin-metformin (Xigduo XR)
- canagliflozin (Invokana)
- canagliflozin-metformin (Invokamet)
- empagliflozin (Jardiance)
- empagliflozin-linagliptin (Glyxambi)
- empagliflozin-metformin (Synjardy)
- ertugliflozin (Steglatro)
These are among the oldest diabetes drugs still used today. They work by stimulating the pancreas with the help of beta cells. This causes your body to make more insulin.
These drugs include:
- glimepiride (Amaryl)
- glimepiride-pioglitazone (Duetact)
- glimepiride-rosiglitazone (Avandaryl)
- glipizide (Glucotrol)
- glipizide-metformin (Metaglip)
- glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase, Micronase)
- glyburide-metformin (Glucovance)
- chlorpropamide (Diabinese)
- tolazamide (Tolinase)
- tolbutamide (Orinase, Tol-Tab)
Thiazolidinediones work by decreasing glucose in your liver. They also help your fat cells use insulin better.
These drugs come with an increased risk of heart disease. If your doctor gives you one of these drugs, they’ll watch your heart function during treatment.
- rosiglitazone (Avandia)
- rosiglitazone-glimepiride (Avandaryl)
- rosiglitazone-metformin (Amaryl M)
- pioglitazone (Actos)
- pioglitazone-alogliptin (Oseni)
- pioglitazone-glimepiride (Duetact)
- pioglitazone-metformin (Actoplus Met, Actoplus Met XR)
People with type 1 and type 2 diabetes often need to take other medications to treat conditions that are common with diabetes.
These drugs can include:
- aspirin for heart health
- drugs for high cholesterol
- high blood pressure medications
Talk with your doctor
There are many medications available to treat both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. They each work in different ways to help you control your blood sugar.
Ask your doctor which diabetes drug may be the best fit for you. Your doctor will make recommendations based on the type of diabetes you have, your health, and other factors.