Learn About Medications for Diabetes

Filed Under: Diabetes, Blood Sugar
Last Reviewed 03/26/2014

Learn about the five main classes of medications for diabetes and their side effects. 

Medications for Diabetes Overview

There are five classes of oral drugs commonly prescribed 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

Heartburn, nausea, diarrhea, and loss of appetite


Repaglinide (Prandin) and nateglinide (Starlix)

Stimulate the beta cells in the pancreas to release more insulin

Headache, joint pain, nervousness, and sweating


Metformin (Glucophage)

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

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

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, and stomach pain

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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