Type 2 diabetes medications

Oral medications

The American Diabetes Association recommends that most people with type 2 diabetes first try a drug called metformin — provided the person can tolerate it. Metformin causes the liver to make less glucose and therefore release less glucose into the blood. It also helps cells in your muscles use insulin to absorb sugar.

But if changing your lifestyle habits and metformin aren’t enough, your doctor may prescribe another drug or drugs. The classes of diabetes drugs work differently, so they are generally safe to use together. Some of these drugs are prescribed as a combination pill. Or you may take two different pills. The drugs work differently:

  • Some help the body make more insulin.
  • Some help the body use insulin better.
  • Some help your body make more insulin as needed, such as after eating. They also help keep the liver from putting stored sugar in your blood.
  • Some block the kidneys from absorbing sugars.
  • Some help the body make more insulin, less of a hormone that counteracts insulin. They also reduce appetite and slow the emptying of the stomach.


For people with type 2 diabetes, oral medication may not be enough to manage blood sugar. Over time, pills may stop working. Your doctor may then prescribe insulin, alone or in addition to diabetes pills. Some people with type 2 diabetes may need insulin therapy when they begin their treatment. Others may need insulin at some point in their diabetes management.

Non-insulin injectables

Another type of medication that is given by injection helps people with type 2 diabetes produce more insulin when blood sugar levels are high and may be prescribed in addition to oral medications.

As with all drugs, these medications can have side effects. Be sure to discuss them with your doctor