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Oral Medicines

Oral medicine for people with type 2 diabetes

People with type 2 diabetes may need to take one or more types of diabetes pills to lower their blood sugar. There are many types of diabetes pills and each type has a specific action.

Diabetic pills that lower the blood sugar levels include the following types:


Biguanides decrease the amount of sugar produced in the liver and also lower the amount of blood glucose by making it easier for muscle tissue to absorb glucose.


Sulfonylureas stimulate the production of insulin in the pancreas and help the body to use the insulin that is currently being produced.


Meglitinides stimulate the production of insulin in the pancreas, but are shorter acting than sulfonylureas.


Thiazolidinediones help make the cells in the body more sensitive to insulin.

Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors

Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors block the enzymes that digest starches, resulting in a slower rise in the blood sugar.

DPP-IV inhibitors

DPP-IV inhibitors enhance the body's own ability to lower blood sugar levels by blocking an enzyme called dipeptidyl peptidase IV (DPP-IV). When DPP-IV is blocked, proteins that increase the release of insulin after blood sugar rises are able to work longer. This lowers the blood sugar.

SGLT2 inhibitors 

SGLT2 inhibitors lower blood sugar by blocking the kidney's ability to reabsorb sugar from the blood. Excess sugar is excreted in the urine.

Bile acid sequestrants 

These medicines, usually used to lower cholesterol, also lower blood sugar, even though they are not absorbed from the GI tract. 

Each type of medicine will help lower the blood sugar levels in a different way. Some people with type 2 diabetes may take a combination of diabetes pills and insulin. Your healthcare provider will prescribe the treatment plan that will work best for you and will give you directions as to the times, dosage, and frequency of each type of medicine.

Only people with type 2 diabetes use oral medicines. Oral medicines are not helpful for a person with type 1 diabetes whose pancreas has lost most or all ability to produce insulin.

Maintaining a proper diet and a regular exercise program are both important steps in controlling diabetes, even when taking oral medicines. Oral medicines are designed to work with diet and exercise, not in place of them.

Online Medical Reviewer: Hurd, Robert, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Sather, Rita, RN
Date Last Reviewed: 9/1/2016
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