Type 2 Diabetes: Oral Medications Rundown

Medical experts warn about an upcoming explosion in the number of people with type 2 diabetes. In response to this growing need, pharmaceutical companies have used their research and development departments to develop a number of type 2 diabetes medications that provide patients with a convenient way to manage blood sugar levels and avoid many of the complications of this disease.

Understanding Type 2 Diabetes

Diabetes is a condition in which blood glucose levels rise to levels far above what is seen normally. Insulin, which is produced in the pancreas, helps to regulate the amount of glucose in the bloodstream.

However, sometimes, the body produces no insulin and insulin must be replaced in order for the body to function normally. This is called type 1 diabetes, and the insulin is replaced through injection.

Another type of diabetes, which is more common than the type 1, also occurs. This type of diabetes, called type 2, occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin or does not metabolize the insulin normally.

Type 2 diabetes can be treated with oral medications. The type 2 diabetes oral medications list continues to grow as more pharmaceutical companies develop new drugs to treat this common medical problem.

Type 2 Diabetes Oral Medications

Managing blood sugar levels on a daily basis can help to reduce the detrimental effects of high glucose levels on organs of the body. Currently, type 2 diabetes oral medications fall into a number of different categories that work in different ways.

  • Sulfonylureas
  • Biguanides
  • Meglitinides
  • Thiazolidinediones
  • DPP-4 Inhibitors
  • SGLT2 Inhbitors
  • Alpha-glucosidase Inhibitors
  • Bile Acid Sequestrants


These drugs have been on the type 2 diabetes oral medication list for decades. A number of improvements have been made to the first generation sulfonylurea drugs over the years. These drugs work by stimulating beta cells in the pancreas, causing them to produce more insulin that regulates blood sugar. It is taken twice each day before meals. The medications include Glipizide XL (glucotrol), Glyburide Micro (diabeta), Glimepiride (amaryl) and Chlorpropamide.


Biguanides is a category of type 2 diabetes oral medications that work by decreasing the amount of glucose that the liver produces. Metformin (glucophage) is a commonly prescribed biguanide medication. It also makes muscle tissue more sensitive to insulin, which increases absorption of glucose. Metformin is taken twice daily.


Meglitinide medications stimulate the beta cells much like sulfonylurea drugs to release insulin that regulates glucose levels in the blood. Common meglitinide medications include Repaglinide (prandin) and Nateglinide (starlix). These type 2 diabetes oral medications are taken before each meal three times each day.

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These drugs reduce glucose production in the liver and help muscles and fat cells to utilize insulin more effectively. However, some problems with liver function while taking this medication has been reported. Rosiglitazone (TZDs) and Pioglitazone (actos) are two thiazolidinedoine medications on the type 2 diabetes oral medications list.

DPP4 Inhibitors

Dipeptidyl peptidase 4 inhibitors, usually called DPP4 inhibitors, reduce glucogen release and increases insulin release, which helps to lower blood sugar. Linagliptin (tradjenta), Saxagliptin (onglyza) and Sitagliptin (januvia) are common forms of the drug. It is sometimes combined with other type 2 diabetes oral medications to increase effectiveness.

SGLT2 Inhibitors

Sodium-glucose transporter 2 is a substance in the kidneys that works to reabsorb the glucose that causes blood sugar level fluctuations. SGLT2 inhibitors block this reabsorbtion of glucose to allow better control of glucose levels in the body. Excess glucose is then excreted by the kidneys. Ivokana (canagliflozin), Farxiga (dapagliflozin) are two examples of these drugs that are part of the type 2 diabetes oral medications list.

Alpha-Glucosidase Inhibitors

This category of drugs on the type 2 diabetes oral medications list works by blocking the breakdown of starches that help to raise glucose levels in the body. They also slow the breakdown of sugar in foods. Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors are taken with food, at the beginning of meals. Drugs in this category on the type 2 diabetes oral medications list include Acarbose (precose) and Miglitol (glyset).

Bile Acid Sequestrants

This category of type 2 diabetes oral medications removes cholesterol from the body by binding with bile acids in the digestive tract. The mechanism by which cholesterol use lowers blood sugar is not well understood but appears to be an effective means of managing glucose levels in individual with type 2 diabetes. Welchol is an example of the bile acid sequestrant used to lower blood sugar.

Combinations of Medications

In some cases of type 2 diabetes, the use of one of these medications may not offer sufficient control of blood sugar levels. Your physician may choose to use two medications together to offer greater efficacy. Two drugs on the type 2 diabetes oral medications list used together can often offer better blood sugar control than simply switching to another single medication.

About Cary Byrd

eDrugSearch founder, Cary Byrd, has been called an “e-health innovator” by MarketIntellNow, interviewed by top pharmaceutical industry journalists, invited to Matthew Holt’s Health 2.0 Conference and a Consumer Report's health summit, and highlighted on numerous health blogs.

Type 2 Diabetes: Oral Medications Rundown

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