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Diabetes Medications & Drugs

Woman with type 1 diabetes measuring her blood glucose levelsIf you have been diagnosed with diabetes, there are a number of drugs which can help you take better control over the symptoms of this condition. In fact, there is such a diversity of medications currently available for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes that they have been divided up into certain classes based on their method of action.

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The following is a list of the more common drug classes used to treat diabetics, which form of diabetes (type 1 or type 2) they are intended for, how they work, and which medications are classified under these drug classes:


The human body produces the hormone, insulin, in order to help keep control of blood sugar levels. For anyone who has type 1 diabetes, they’ll need to take insulin in order to survive. In some cases, type 2 diabetics may also need to take insulin, but this is not always the case. Nowadays, there are a variety of different insulin types which can be taken as medication for your diabetes. The difference between these insulin medications is that some may last a full day and others might only last a few hours.

Variations of Insulin Currently Available:

  • Short-acting Insulin: This is the most common form of insulin used for people with type 1 diabetes. It will start working within 30 to 60 minutes following the injection, and it peaks in about 2 to 4 hours.
  • Long-acting Insulin: This form of insulin can take anywhere from 6 to 14 hours to start working, but it has almost no peak. Long-acting insulin can stay in effect for as long as 20 to 26 hours.
  • Rapid-acting Insulin: This form of insulin will reach the patient’s blood within 15 minutes of being injected. The effects of this medication will hit their peak between 30 to 90 minutes later, and they can last up to 5 hours.
  •  Intermediate-acting Insulin: This will start taking effect within 1 to 3 hours after the patient has taken it, and it usually peaks in about 8 hours. This form of insulin can stay in the blood for anywhere from 14 to 20 hours.


Sulphonylureas are drugs that have become classified as anti-diabetic medications mostly prescribed for people who have type 2 diabetes. Interesting side note on this class of diabetes drugs, they all tend to end in the letters I-D-E.

Short list of drugs listed as Sulphonylureas with their marketed brand names:

  • Gliquidone (Glurenorm)
  • Glibenclamide (Daonil)
  • Glimepiride (Amaryl)
  •  Glipizide (Glucotrol)
  • Gliclazide (Diamicron)
  • Gliquidone (Glurenorm)
  • Glyclopyramide (Deamelin-S)


This type of medication is used to prevent the patient’s liver form producing glucose. In blocking the body’s production of glucose, it can once again become more sensitive towards insulin. Within this specific class of diabetes drugs, the only medication that is currently available to people is called metformin. If you are a type 2 diabetic, then this is the type of drug that your doctor may choose to prescribe as the first course of a treatment regimen. Biguanides can also be prescribed in combination with insulin for people who have been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

DPP-4 inhibitors / Gliptins

DPP-4 inhibitors, also known as gliptins, are used in order to help stimulate the body’s production of insulin, while also reducing the level of glucagon it produces. This type of diabetes drug hits its peak in effectiveness during the digestion process. Gliptins are often prescribed to people with type 2 diabetes who haven’t had any luck when taking metformin and sulphonylureas.

Here is a list of DPP-4 inhibitors currently available:

  • Saxagliptin (Onglyza)
  • Sitagliptin (Januvia)
  • Vildagliptin (Galvus)
  • Linagliptin (Tradjenta)

Thiazolidinedione / Glitazones

Another class of diabetes drugs that are often used for type 2 diabetics are called thiazolidinediones, or just glitazones. This type of mediction will actually help to improve the patient’s sensitivity to insulin, plus some studies have found that it can also help reduce your triglyceride levels. Unfortunately, there have also been some reports that this type of drug can cause some heart related complications.

Meglitinides / Prandial glucose regulator / Glinides

Meglitinides are drugs that work in almost the same way as sulphonylureas, except that they will start to take effect in shorter amount of time. Doctors will prescribe meglitinides to their patients with type 2 diabetes, and they are to be taken within a half hour before they start eating. Given their shorter length of effectiveness compared to sulphonylureas, there is less of a risk that patients could experience side effects.

Here is a list of prandial glucose regulators currently available:

  • Nateglinide (Starlix)
  • Repaglinide (Prandin)

Amylin Analogues

Just like insulin, amylin is a hormone that our pancreases produce naturally. The one real big difference between the two is that the pancreas produces a much smaller amount of amylin (only about 1% of the amount of insulin that is produced). This hormone works to help suppress the release of glucagon and lowers the blood sugar levels following a meal. There is an injectable version of amylin currently available for diabetics known as pramlintide acetate (Symlin). You should also know that taking amylin in combination with insulin could lead to a higher risk of hypoglycemia.

With the broad range of diabetes drugs available today, it is very important that you consult your options with your doctor. Together, the two of you can decide which course of medication will work the best for your diabetes. Today is the day to take back control of your diabetes and your life.