Learn About Medications for Diabetes

Filed Under: Blood Sugar, Diabetes
Last Reviewed 11/10/2015

There are eight classes of oral drugs commonly prescribed by conventional doctors for treating type 2 diabetes. Below, you’ll find the common generic and brand names (in parentheses) of the medications for diabetes, how they are intended to treat the disease and their most common side effects.

Drug Class

Medication Name

Mode of Action

Side Effects


Glipizide (Glucotrol and Glucotrol XL), glyburide (Micronase, Glynase, and DiaBeta), and glimepiride (Amaryl)

Stimulate the beta cells in the pancreas to release more insulin

Increased risk of cardiovascular events and death, hypoglycemia, weight gain, heartburn, nausea, diarrhea, and loss of appetite


Metformin (Glucophage)

Lower the amount of glucose produced by the liver and make muscle tissue more sensitive to insulin so glucose can be absorbed

Lactic acidosis, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal bloating, and loss of appetite


Rosiglitazone (Avandia) and pioglitazone (Actos)

Reduce production of glucose in the liver and help insulin work better in muscle and fat tissue

Increased risk of cardiovascular events and death, weight gain, upper respiratory infections, headache, muscle ache, sore throat, and sinus irritation

Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors

Acarbose (Precose) and miglitol (Glyset)

Block the breakdown of starches and slow the breakdown of some sugars in the intestines

Bloating, diarrhea, gas, stomach pain, and weight gain


Repaglinide (Prandin) and nateglinide (Starlix)

Stimulate the beta cells in the pancreas to release more insulin

Hypoglycemia, weight gain, headache, joint pain, nervousness, and sweating

DPP-4 Inhibitors

Sitagliptin phosphate (Januvia)

Block an enzyme that keeps insulin circulating in the blood

Upper respiratory infections, sore throat, and headache

Bile Acid Sequestrants

Colesevelam (Welchol)

Work in tandem with other diabetes medications to lower blood glucose

Constipation, nausea, diarrhea, gas, heartburn, headache (may interact with glyburide, levothyroxine, and contraceptives)

Combination Pills

Pioglitazone & metformin (Actoplus Met), Glyburide & metformin (Glucovance), Glipizide & metformin (Metaglip), Sitagliptin & metformin (Janumet), Saxagliptin & metformin (Kombiglyze), Repaglinide & metformin (Prandimet), and Pioglitazone & glimepiride (Duetact)

Combine the actions of each pill used in the combination formula

Side effects are the same as those of each pill used in the combination

More Dr. Whitaker Advice on Treating Diabetes

DISCLAIMER: The content of DrWhitaker.com is offered on an informational basis only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health provider before making any adjustment to a medication or treatment you are currently using, and/or starting any new medication or treatment. All recommendations are "generally informational" and not specifically applicable to any individual's medical problems, concerns and/or needs.

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