Oral medications

People with type 2 diabetes often require oral medications when lifestyle interventions (diet modification, increase in physical activity) alone are not enough to keep blood glucose levels within the target range. Blood glucose-lowering medicines enhance the effects of lifestyle changes and aim to achieve the best possible blood glucose levels in order to prevent or delay the development of diabetes complications.

There are number of different types of blood glucose-lowering medicines which work in different ways. They can be divided into six groups by their mode of action:

  • Those that increase insulin production.
  • Those that reduce glucose production and release from the liver.
  • Those that reduce insulin resistance.
  • Those that slow the absorption of sucrose and starch.
  • Those that increase the response of beta cells to circulating glucose levels and promote full feeling.
  • Those that increase the effects of incretins, hormones that cause an increase in the amount of insulin released from the beta cells in the pancreas.

Types of Blood Glucose-Lowering Medicines

Some blood glucose-lowering medicines are better suited for some people than others. A combination of different medicines works well and people with type 2 diabetes often require combination therapy to achieve target blood glucose levels. Medicines are recommended from different categories to affect different mechanisms. It is not advised to give two medications from the same category. The most suitable diabetes medication depends on the individual needs and situation of the person with diabetes. It is therefore important to discuss the different types of medication available and the most suitable options with the healthcare team.

Before taking diabetes medication it is important for the person with diabetes to know:

  • What it is
  • Why they are taking it
  • How it works
  • When to take it
  • The possible side effects