Non-Insulin Diabetes Medicines | Cornerstones4Care®

Non-Insulin Diabetes Medicines

Whether you are newly diagnosed or have had diabetes for a while, there are many medicines that may help lower your blood sugar, along with watching what you eat and being more active. Two groups of non-insulin medicines can be described as:

  • Diabetes pills called oral antidiabetic drugs (OADs) 
  • Diabetes medicines taken by injection under the skin (subcutaneous) daily or weekly (non-insulin injectables)

What’s happening in your body   

In type 2 diabetes, people may not make enough insulin or the body resists insulin or both. If you have type 2 diabetes, you could have one or more of these problems:

  • Your liver puts too much sugar in your blood
  • Your pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin
  • Your muscles or fat cells don’t respond to insulin well enough
  • Your kidneys put too much sugar back into your blood
  • Your gut doesn't tell the pancreas to make more insulin

Oral Antidiabetic Drugs (OADs)

There are many types of diabetes pills. These pills are also called oral antidiabetic drugs, or OADs for short. Diabetes pills are usually one part of a diabetes care plan that may also include a meal plan and/or regular physical activity. They work in different ways to lower blood sugar levels.

Metformin (biguanide)

Helps lower insulin resistance and reduce the production of glucose

Sodium-glucose co-transporter 2 or SGLT2 inhibitors (dapagliflozin, empagliflozin, canagliflozin)

Help the kidneys to get rid of extra sugar in the body through the urine

DPP-4 inhibitors (sitagliptin, saxagliptin, linagliptin)

Help prevent the breakdown of GLP-1, a hormone produced in the intestines

Thiazolidinediones or TZDs (pioglitazone, rosiglitazone)

Help improve the liver, muscle, and fat cells' response to insulin, meaning more sugar leaves the blood and enters the muscles and fat (where it belongs)

Sulfonylureas (glimepiride, glyburide, glipizide)

Help the pancreas to release more insulin

Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors (acarbose, miglitol)

Slow down the digestion of carbohydrates and keep the body from absorbing sugar

OAD Combinations

Since the different kinds of oral antidiabetic drugs (OADs) help lower blood sugar in different ways, they may be used together. These options allow health care providers and patients to individualize treatment to meet specific patient needs.

GLP-1 Receptor Agonist Therapy

With type 2 diabetes, there are at least 8 core defects that can affect blood sugar levels. These defects can cause diabetes to change over time and make it harder to reach your A1C goal. That means your treatment may need to change too.

If your OADs, along with diet and exercise, are no longer helping your blood sugar stay in your target range, your health care provider may speak with you about other therapeutic options.

GLP-1 receptor agonists are a type of non-insulin injectable medicine. GLP-1, or glucagon-like peptide-1, is a hormone in your body that helps lower blood sugar. GLP-1 receptor agonists mimic the action of GLP-1 in the body. They work by: 

  • Telling the liver not to make so much sugar
  • Helping the pancreas release more insulin after you've eaten
  • Slowing down digestion of food so after-meal blood sugar levels don't go as high

There are daily and weekly GLP-1 receptor agonist therapy options. 

One of the keys to incorporating either a daily or weekly therapy into your schedule is to create a new habit. For instance, if you take a once-daily medicine, you may associate taking it with having your morning cup of coffee. For a once-weekly medicine, you might associate taking it with reading the Sunday newspaper. Before long, taking your medicine can become a routine part of your life. 

Learn about GLP-1 therapies from Novo Nordisk. 

Be sure to talk to your health care provider about the potential side effects of non-insulin injectable medicines.

Have you signed up for the Diabetes Health Coach?

Discover a GLP-1 receptor agonist medicine from Novo Nordisk.

Michael Stevens discusses the connection between hormones and blood sugar control