About Diabetes Medicines
There are 2 main types of diabetes medicines: non-insulin medicines and insulin. Non-insulin medicines may be pills that you take by mouth or injections given under the skin. Insulin is usually taken by injection.
Many people with type 2 diabetes will need to combine healthy eating and physical activity (such as walking) with non-insulin and/or insulin diabetes medicine to help keep their blood sugar in the target range.
Your health care provider will let you know when it’s time to add medicine to your diabetes care plan. They will also let you know if and when it’s time to change your medicine because your diabetes has changed.
The more you know about diabetes medicines, the more you will be able to work with your health care provider to choose the options that meet your needs.
To help your health care provider develop your individual diabetes management plan, you’ll need to learn about the medicines available to treat type 2 diabetes.
Non-Insulin Diabetes Medicines—Pills
A pill or combination of pills is usually the first diabetes medicine suggested by diabetes experts. For some people, diet and physical activity alone are used to treat their diabetes first before moving on to a pill or pills. For others, medicine is started right away.
You and your health care provider will work together to decide what treatment plan is right for you.
Oral Antidiabetic Drugs (OADs)
You may see or hear diabetes pills referred to as OADs. This stands for Oral AntiDiabetic drugs. There are several kinds of OADs. They work in different ways, but all work to lower blood sugar.
Non-Insulin Diabetes Medicines—Injectables
There are two types of non-insulin injectable medicines that are injected under the skin and may help lower your blood sugar:
• GLP-1 receptor agonists
• Amylin agonists
GLP-1, or glucagon-like peptide, is a hormone produced in the intestines. Amylin is a hormone made in the pancreas. Both work to keep blood sugar in balance when you eat.
The word agonist describes how the drug works in your body to produce a physiological response.
Ask your health care provider if non-insulin injectable diabetes medicine could be right for you.
The scientists Frederick Banting and J.J.R. Macleod won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for discovering insulin in 1923. Since then, insulin medicines have become more and more advanced. The insulin that your body makes naturally is a hormone that is important in the process that uses food for energy.
Some people with type 2 diabetes may not be able to use their own insulin well
This is called insulin resistance. It causes blood sugar levels to increase.
Some people with type 2 diabetes may not be able to make enough insulin
As diabetes changes over time, the body makes less insulin and can't control blood sugar levels. For these people, insulin can be injected under the skin. This increases the amount of insulin in their body. This helps lower blood sugar levels back to their normal range.
There are many types of insulin. They each work at a different pace to mimic the way the body normally releases insulin. You can find more details on the types of insulin in Your Insulin Options.
No matter which type of medication you start with—or add/switch to if your diabetes changes—they all work together with healthy eating and physical activity to help you reach your blood sugar goals.