Diabetes Medications – Drugs at Glance

diabetes medication and drugs

People suffering from type II diabetes need medicines to control their blood glucose levels. There are a number of anti-diabetic medicines available in the market and each of it works in its unique way to control blood glucose level. They can differ in the way of administration as well. Some can be taken orally while others can be given as an injection.

They are grouped together because they work towards a common goal.
Here we will give you an entire summary of all the medicines that are used for managing the blood glucose levels of people suffering from diabetes.

1. Biguanides

Biguanides are the first-choice medicines that are used for managing type II diabetes through oral medication.

These drugs work by preventing the formation of glucose from non-carbohydrate sources in liver and increase the cells sensitivity to insulin. In this way, they help in keeping blood glucose level in check.


Metformin is the only medicine belonging to this class that is used.

Some of the side effects of Biguanides are:

  • Sickness with alcohol
  • Kidney complications
  • Upset stomach
  • Tiredness or dizziness
  • Metal taste

2. Dipeptidyl-peptidase-4 (DPP-4) Inhibitors

The endocrine cells of the small intestine secrete hormones called incretins.

Incretins stimulate the secretion of insulin when food reaches the intestine.

Incretins also play a role in decreasing the level of glucagon in the blood
In this way, incretins too play an important role in maintaining blood glucose levels.

DPP-4 are hormones that are secreted in the body to promote degradation of incretins so that their functioning is regulated. So, in case of diabetic’s high levels of incretins are desirable while high levels of DPP-4 levels are not needed.

To counteract the action of DPP-4, DPP-4 inhibitors are prescribed so as to prolong the action of incretins. This helps in lowering blood glucose levels.

Sitagliptin, Sax gliptin, Linagliptin and AL gliptin are the medicines belonging to this group.

3. Alpha-Glucosidase Inhibitors

These medicines help in increasing the time that is required for absorption of carbohydrates in the gut. This helps in preventing increasing glucose levels in the body after meals.

However, they have limited usefulness in managing blood glucose levels.

Acarbose and miglitol are the medicines that belong to this group.

Alpha-glucosidase Inhibitors can sometimes cause the following side effects:

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhoea

4. Meglitinides

Meglitinides help in increasing the secretion of insulin from the pancreas. Therefore, they are known as insulin secretagogues.

Since they induce the secretion of insulin, they are generally prescribed to be taken before meals.


Repaglinide and Nateglinide are the two medicines that belong to this group.

Meglitinides can have the following side effects:

  • Weight gain
  • Low blood sugar

5. Sulphonylureas

Sulphonylureas are also insulin secretagogues and thus increase the secretion of insulin.
They also improve efficacy of insulin in the body due to which more and more cells are able to absorb glucose from the blood.

They also help in reducing the HbA1C levels by 1-2% and blood glucose levels by nearly 20%.

Drugs belonging to this category are Glyburide/ Glibenclamide, glipizide and Glimepiride.

Some of the commonly observed side effects of Sulfonylureas are:

  • Low blood sugar
  • Stomach upset
  • Skin rash or itching
  • Weight gain

6. Thiazolidinedione

Thiazolidinediones are the drugs that help in decreasing insulin resistance in body cells, including liver, fat and muscles.

These medicines activate a factor, called peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) gamma, that promotes fatty acid metabolism and fat cell differentiation and. The major action of thiazolidinedione is fat redistribution.

These drugs also help in delaying the progression of diabetes by preserving the beta cells of pancreas. Pioglitazone and Rosiglitazone are two medicines belonging to this group.

Some of the side effects associated with Thiazolidinediones are:

  • Weight gain
  • Risk of liver disease
  • Anaemia risk
  • Swelling of legs or ankles

7. Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1)

These are the medicines that mimic the action of hormone, incretins, that are secreted by the endocrinological cells in the intestine that work by increasing the glucose-dependent release of insulin and reducing the levels of glucagon in the blood and delaying gastric emptying.

Exenatide, Liraglutinide, Albiglutide, Dulaglutide, Lixisenatide and Semaglutide are the drugs prescribed from this category.

8. Glycosuric or Selective Sodium Glucose Co-Transporter-2 (SGLT-2) Inhibitors

Drugs belonging to this class block glucose from getting reabsorbed in the kidneys. This helps in increasing the excretion of glucose from the body and thereby decreasing the blood sugar levels.

Canagliflozin, Dapagliflozin and Empagliflozin are the medicines that are prescribed from this group.

9. Insulin

drugs to treat diabetes

Insulin is a hormone that is responsible for regulating blood glucose level in the body. There a number of types of insulin that are available for medication. Some of them are long-acting and some are short. However, insulin is prescribed to people with diabetes type I and for people with type II diabetes who do not respond to medicines.

Are Anti-Diabetic Drugs Suitable for All Diabetes?

Most of the anti-diabetic drugs that are designed are for people suffering from type II diabetes who are unable to regulate their blood glucose levels through lifestyle changes, strict diet and regular exercise.

However, some of the medicines like metformin can also be prescribed to people alongside insulin for people having type I diabetes as well.


Anti-diabetic drugs along with a healthy diet and regular exercise can go a long way in helping people in managing their blood glucose levels. There are a number of pills available in the market that function in its own way to keep glucose level in check. Have a complete knowledge about them so that you an informed patient.