Diabetes Medications

Type 2 Diabetes Medications can be confusing. What are the best medications for diabetes. What do they do? Understanding what these medications are and what they do can be overwhelming.

If you’re not a doctor, it seems like figuring out your meds is like a giant science vocabulary quiz. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like quizzes anymore!

Generally, all of the pills are designed to help control your body’s blood sugar in one way or another, with the aim of keeping your glucose lower. Sometimes you only take one type of pill, other times you will need to take a combination of pills.

The main types of medications are divided into seven different drug classifications or categories:

Drug Type Function
BiguanidesBlock the Liver from Making Sugar
Sulfonylureas Raise Insulin in Body
MeglitinidesRaise Insulin in Body
Thiazolidinediones Help the Body Use Insulin
Alpha-Glucosidase InhibitorsSlow Sugar Digestion
Dipeptidyl Peptidase-4(DPP-4) InhibitorsRaise insulin AND Lower Sugar Production
Sodium Glucose Co-Transporter 2 Inhibitors (SGLT2)Blocks Glucose Absorption / Increases Glucose Secretion

SGLT2 is a new class of type 2 drugs that only recently was approved in the United States in 2013. Basically, this class of drugs keep the kidneys from re-absorbing or storing glucose and they also help you increase the excretion of excess glucose through your urine.

As alluded to above, there are also multiple combination of drugs that doctors will prescribe to try and get the right mix for optimal glucose control.

The following table lists the different type 2 medications, and the generic and brand names of popular drugs within each classification.

Drug Type Generic NameBrand Name
BiguanidesMetformin Glucophage ®
Sulfonylureas Glimepiride Amaryl ®
Glipizide Glucotrol ®
GlyburideDiabeta ®
Glynase Pres Tab ®
Micronase ®
MeglitinidesRepaglinide Prandin ®
Nateglinide Starlix ®
ThiazolidinedionesPioglitazoneActos ®
Rosiglitazone Avandia ®
Alpha-Glucosidase InhibitorsAcarbosePrecose ®
Miglitol Glyset ®
DDP-4SitagliptinJanuvia ®
SaxagliptinOnglyza ®
SGLT2CanaglifozinInvokana ®

Side effects for some of the medications can include weight gain, stomach problems, swelling (face or legs), impact heart disease and affect cholesterol (raise and lower). Hypoglycemia and lactic acidosis are also possible side effects.

As always, consult with the medications disclosures, your doctor and pharmacist when evaluating any drug or medication.


Medlineplus, NIH, New Drug Approved for Type 2 Diabetes (accessed April 2013).
Webmd, http://diabetes.webmd.com/guide/oral-medicine-pills-treat-diabetes (accessed April 2013).
By Erich Schultz Last Reviewed April 2013.