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Diabetes Medication Commonly Prescribed by Doctors

Medically reviewed by Jezreel Esguerra, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Hello Sehat · Updated Feb 16, 2023

Diabetes Medication Commonly Prescribed by Doctors

Diabetes Medication Commonly Prescribed by Doctors

Diabetes mellitus or diabetes is a chronic disease that cannot be cured. However, the symptoms of diabetes and the severity of the condition can still be controlled with a healthy lifestyle and proper medication. Although not all people with diabetes need it, diabetes medication is sometimes needed when high blood sugar levels do not go down despite maintaining a healthy diet.

What Types of Diabetes Medication Are Available?

diabetes medication

In contrast to type 1 diabetes, which definitely requires insulin injections, type 2 diabetes can generally be managed with healthy diabetes lifestyle changes, such as adjusting your diet and exercising regularly.

But in some cases, especially when high blood sugar levels are difficult to control just by maintaining a diet, diabetes treatment needs to be assisted with the use of drugs, including insulin therapy.

In general, diabetes drug classes have different ways of working and side effects. However, its function remains the same, which is to help control blood sugar levels while reducing the risk of complications of diabetes.

Some classes of drugs for diabetes that doctors usually recommend are:

1. Metformin (Biguanide)

Metformin is a diabetes drug that belongs to the biguanide group . This is a generic diabetes medication that doctors prescribe most often for type 2 diabetes patients.

Metformin works by decreasing the production of glucose in the liver and increasing the body’s sensitivity to insulin.

That way, the body can use insulin more effectively and glucose is more easily absorbed by the cells in the body.

The generic drug metformin for diabetes is available in pills and syrup. However, metformin also has side effects such as nausea, diarrhea, and weight loss.

These side effects can disappear when the body begins to adapt to the use of this diabetes drug.

Usually, doctors will start prescribing other oral or injectable drugs in combination if metformin alone is not enough to help control blood sugar levels.

2. Sulfonylureas

In addition to metformin, a class of generic drugs for diabetes that are often prescribed by doctors are sulfonylureas.

Sulfonylureas drugs work by helping the pancreas to produce more insulin.

Diabetes can also occur due to insulin resistance, meaning the body is no longer sensitive or sensitive to insulin which is useful for helping regulate blood sugar levels.

Well, this sulfonylurea class of drugs helps the body to become more sensitive to insulin.

Generally, sulfonylurea drugs are only for patients with type 2 diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes do not take these drugs, because in essence, their bodies do not or do not produce insulin.

Some examples of sulfonylurea diabetes drugs include:

  • Chlorpropamide
  • Glyburide
  • Glipzide
  • Glimepiride
  • Gliclazide
  • Tolbutamide
  • Tolazamide
  • Glimepiride

This generic drug for diabetes can cause hypoglycemia or a condition where blood sugar drops quickly.

Therefore, if you are prescribed this diabetes medication by a doctor, you must follow a regular eating schedule.

3. Meglitinide

Meglitinide class of diabetes drugs works like a sulfonylurea, which stimulates the pancreas to produce more insulin.

The difference is, the drug for diabetes works faster. The duration of its effect on the body is also shorter than that of the sulfonylureas.

Repaglinide (Prandin) and nateglinide (Starlix) are examples of the meglitinide class of drugs.

One of the side effects that arise from taking the meglitinide group of drugs is low blood sugar and weight gain.

Consult a doctor to get the best advice for your condition.

4. Thiazolidinediones (Glitazone)

Thiazolidinediones or also known as glitazone drugs are also often given to help control blood sugar levels in patients with type 2 diabetes.

This drug works by helping the body to produce more insulin.

In addition to controlling blood sugar, this drug also helps lower blood pressure and improve fat metabolism by increasing levels of HDL (good cholesterol) in the blood.

Weight gain is one of the side effects of using this diabetes medication. Citing on the Mayo Clinic page , this diabetes drug is also associated with other, more serious side effects, such as the risk of heart failure and anemia.

Diabetes drugs that belong to the glitazone (thiazolidinediones) group are:

  • Rosiglitazone
  • Pioglitazone

diabetes medication

5. DPP-4 Inhibitors (Gliptin)

Dipeptidyl peptidase-4 inhibitors (DPP-4 inhibitors) or also known as the gliptin group are generic drugs for diabetes that work to increase the incretin hormone in the body.

Incretin is a hormone in the digestive tract that works to signal the pancreas to release insulin when blood sugar levels rise.

Therefore, increasing the production of the hormone incretin can help increase the supply of insulin to control high blood sugar levels, especially after eating.

In addition, this diabetes drug can also help reduce the breakdown of glucose in the liver so that it is not flowed into the blood when sugar levels are high.

Usually the doctor will prescribe this diabetes medication if the administration of metformin and sulfonylurea drugs is not effective in controlling the blood sugar of diabetic patients.

Citing the page of the American Diabetes Association , this diabetes drug is also effective for helping to lose weight.

Some of the drugs that fall into this group are:

  • Sitagliptin
  • Saxagliptin
  • Linagliptin
  • Alogliptin

Unfortunately, some reports associate this drug with a risk of pancreatitis or inflammation of the pancreas.

Therefore, inform your doctor of all health conditions you have, especially if you have a history of diseases related to the pancreas.

6. GLP-1 Receptor Agonists (Incretin Mimetics)

GLP-1 receptor agonists, also known as incretin mimetic drugs, are prescribed by doctors if diabetes mellitus medications as mentioned above have not been able to control your blood sugar levels.

Diabetes medication is given by injection. This drug contains amylin, an amino acid that is produced with the hormone insulin in the pancreas.

The way it works is by stimulating the secretion of natural hormones produced by the body precisely in the intestines, namely incretins.

Incretin hormones can stimulate the release of insulin after eating, thereby increasing insulin production and decreasing glucagon or sugar produced by the liver.

Thus, GLP-1 receptor agonists can inhibit and reduce the release of glucose produced after eating.

This diabetes drug also helps slow digestion, thereby preventing the stomach from emptying quickly and suppressing appetite.

Examples of diabetes drugs belonging to the GLP-1 receptor agonist class are:

  • Exanatide
  • Liraglutide
  • Semaglutide
  • Albiglutide
  • Dulaglutide

Recent research suggests that liraglutide and semaglutide may help reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke in people who are at high risk for both conditions.

Side effects of this diabetes drug include nausea, vomiting, and weight gain. For some people, diabetes medications can increase the risk of pancreatitis.

7. SGLT2 Inhibitors

Sodium-glucose co-transporter-2 (SGLT2) is a new class of inhibitor that doctors prescribe to treat diabetes.

This class of diabetes medication works by reducing the reabsorption of glucose in the blood. That way, glucose will be excreted through the urine, so the sugar that accumulates or circulates in the blood will be reduced.

If balanced with the right diet and regular physical exercise program, this class of drugs is effective in helping control high blood sugar in patients with type 2 diabetes.

Doctors usually will not give this drug to those who have type 1 diabetes and diabetic ketoacidosis .

Some examples of diabetes drugs SGLT2 inhibitor class are:

  • Dapagliflozin
  • Canagliflozin
  • Empagliflozin

8. Alpha-glucosidase Inhibitors

Unlike most other types of diabetes drugs, alpha-glucosidase inhibitors do not have a direct effect on the body’s secretion or sensitivity to insulin.

Instead, these drugs slow down the breakdown of carbohydrates found in starchy foods.

Alpha-glucosidase is an enzyme that breaks down carbohydrates into smaller sugar particles—called glucose—the organs then absorb this glucose and use it as energy.

When the absorption of carbohydrates slows down, the changes in starch (flour) in carbohydrates also become slower. This allows the process of converting starch into glucose to run slowly.

As a result, blood sugar levels become more stable.

This class of drugs will have the best effect if taken before meals. Some diabetes drugs that fall into the alpha-glucosidase inhibitor class are:

  • Acarbose
  • Miglitol

Consumption of diabetes drugs does not cause low blood sugar or weight gain.

However, the use of this drug can make you often pass gas and experience side effects of digestive problems. If you experience it often, consult your doctor to adjust the dosage to a safer one.

9. Insulin Therapy

Blood sugar levels of diabetics can be controlled by adopting a healthy lifestyle and taking medication regularly.

But for people with type 1 diabetes, insulin therapy is the mainstay of controlling the disease because their pancreas can no longer produce insulin.

That is why insulin therapy is more commonly aimed at people with type 1 diabetes, rather than using diabetes medication.

Even so, people with type 2 diabetes sometimes also need this therapy. They need insulin therapy because even though their pancreas can still produce the hormone insulin, the body cannot respond to the insulin that is produced optimally.

Doctors usually prescribe insulin therapy for type 2 diabetes patients who are unable to control their blood sugar through lifestyle changes and oral medication.

People use several types of supplemental insulin to help treat diabetes. Here are some types of insulin based on their speed:

  • Fast -acting insulin ( rapid-acting insulin )
  • Regular insulin ( short-acting insulin )
  • Intermediate-acting insulin ( intermediate-acting insulin )
  • Slow -acting insulin ( long-acting insulin )

Combination of Diabetes Medications

Before prescribing diabetes medication, the doctor will consider various things related to diabetes health conditions, such as:

  • Age
  • Medical history
  • Type of diabetes experienced
  • Disease severity
  • Past medical or therapeutic procedures
  • Side effects or tolerance to certain types of drugs

In the treatment of diabetes, there are many drugs that have different functions and ways of working in controlling blood sugar.

Therefore, doctors may be able to prescribe several types of diabetes medication at once if they feel it will be more effective.

In addition, a combination of drugs can keep your A1C test (last 3 months blood sugar test) under control for a longer time compared to single therapy or treatment with one drug alone.

For insulin therapy, combining metformin sulfonylurea drugs is usually done. In some cases, doctors combine sulfonylureas with glitazone.

You should not carelessly stop taking the drug or take it beyond the prescribed dose, even if your blood sugar check at home shows normal results.

Talk to your doctor about a diabetes treatment plan. Later, the doctor will decide whether your treatment is working or something needs to be changed.

Do Diabetics Have To Take Medication Forever?

Many say diabetes treatment will last forever . However, you usually no longer need to take diabetes medication if the results of a diabetes test have shown:

  • A hemoglobin A1C test result of less than 7%
  • The result of fasting blood sugar in the morning is less than 130 mg/dL
  • Postprandial blood sugar results or two hours after eating should be less than 180 mg/dL

However, to escape the use of diabetes medication, you must adopt a healthy lifestyle, regulate food, and exercise specifically for diabetes on a regular basis.

If necessary, you should consult a nutritionist to help you make the right diabetes diet.

Learn more about Diabetes here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Jezreel Esguerra, MD

General Practitioner

Written by Hello Sehat · Updated Feb 16, 2023

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