Oral Diabetes Medications

Type 2 Diabetes Medications List

Right now, any oral diabetes medication is used to treat type 2 diabetes—not type 1 diabetes. Therefore, this article focuses on type 2 diabetes.

There are several classifications of medication currently available, and we will go over them.

  • alpha-glucosidase inhibitors
  • biguanides
  • DPP-4 inhibitors
  • meglitinides
  • sulfonylureas
  • thiazolidinediones (TZDs)

Alpha-glucosidase Inhibitors
Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors reduce the amount of glucose in the intestines by delaying its absorption. They actually inhibit (hence the name of inhibitor) your body in breaking down carbohydrates—and that's the process that creates glucose.

Because alpha-glucosidase inhibitors keep your body from getting more glucose from the complex carbohydrates you eat, they also keep your blood glucose level from going as high after eating.

You must take alpha-glucosidase inhibitors with food; in fact, you have to take them before you take the first bite of your meal, if you want them to work effectively.

Acarbose (brand name: Precose) and miglitol (brand name: Glyset) are 2 examples of alpha-glucosidase inhibitors.

Biguanides
One of the most popular and enduring oral diabetic medications, it is better known as metformin (brand name: Glucophage).

Biguanides impact the liver by diminishing the amount of glucose it releases between meals. It is given 2 to 4 times a day, and patients can now obtain it in extended release.

There are multiple gastrointestinal side effect.

DPP-4 Inhibitors
DPP-4 inhibitors are known better by the brand name Januvia.

This diabetes medication allows more insulin to be released into the body.

It's taken once daily with or without food.

Repaglinide and Nateglinide
At mealtimes, repaglinide (brand name: Prandin) and nateglinide (brand name: Starlix)—which are 2 different diabetes medications that often get grouped together—stimulate the beta cells in the pancreas to produce insulin.

They are taken every time you eat, but they have the potential of incurring hypoglycemia.

Sulfonylureas
One of the earliest and still quite effective diabetes medications, this category has many brand names.

The mechanism of action is to prompt insulin production during and between meals.

If not regulated correctly, users may experience hypoglycemia.

It is taken one or two times a day.

Thiazolidinediones (TZDs)
This class of medication sensitizes the body to insulin and promotes insulin absorption into the cells. They work against insulin resistance, which is the underlying problem for many people with type 2 diabetes—their bodies can't use insulin as well as they should.

TZDs have the potential for adverse effects on the heart and liver, and they often contribute to weight gain. Users should report difficulty breathing, swollen feet, and nausea to their clinician.

Avandia and Actos are examples of TZDs

Type 2 Diabetes Medications: Many Options to Help You
As you can see, when it comes to type 2 diabetes medications, you have many options. By working closely with your doctor and diabetes treatment team, you'll be able to figure out what's best for you in controlling your blood glucose levels.

First published on: April 19, 2011