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Type 2 diabetes medicine

What is the best medicine for type 2 diabetes?   

The best medicine for type 2 diabetes to help you manage your blood sugar levels is eating well, being more active and getting support to lose weight.  

This will help you manage your blood sugar levels, blood pressure and blood fat levels and reduce your risk of complications. In some cases, people who lose weight, particularly soon after diagnosis, can put their type 2 diabetes in remission.  

When you’re first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes you may not need medication. Lifestyle changes could be all you need.   

But at some point most people with type 2 diabetes also need to take medication to keep their blood sugar levels healthy. This could be tablets such as metformin, insulin injections or other medication take by an injection   

This doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong but your body just needs some help to keep blood sugar levels in a healthy range and reduce the risk of long-term complications of diabetes.  

What are the different types of medication for type 2 diabetes?

There are different treatments for and medication for type 2 diabetes. They are:

  • Eating well 
  • Being more active  
  • Getting support to lose weight so that your weight is in the healthy range   
  • Metformin (a tablet) to help insulin in your body work better and can sometimes help weight loss.  
  • Insulin if the insulin in your body isn’t working well, taking insulin as a medication through injections will help you manage your blood sugar levels.   
  • Other types of diabetes medication to help bring blood sugar levels down or help people lose weight  

Can type 2 diabetes be treated with pills?   

Some people with type 2 diabetes take diabetes medication which are pills. The most common medicine for type 2 diabetes is metformin, usually taken as a tablet. There are also other tablets and medication you may take.  

Can you treat type 2 diabetes with medication? 

At some point, most people with type 2 diabetes will need to take medication to help them manage their blood sugar levels.  

Diabetes medications are safe but like many other medications they may have side effects or interact with other medications you’re taking. Because medicines can affect you differently, your healthcare team will speak to you about what’s best and discuss any side effects.   

As well as helping to manage blood sugar levels, some of these medications may have other benefits like protecting your heart or kidneys or helping with weight loss. Ask your healthcare team why they are prescribing you a certain medication.   

Tablets for type 2 diabetes   

Metformin (Biguanide)  

This tablet is the first diabetes medication prescribed for type 2 diabetes if a healthy diet and physical activity alone hasn’t sufficiently helped to manage blood sugar levels.    


There are a number of different tablets in this medication family including gliclazide (Diamicron) and glibenclamide (Daonil). They work mainly by stimulating the pancreas to make more insulin.   
The medication is take once or twice a day with or shortly before a meal. They can cause low blood sugar levels and may encourage weight.   

They stimulate the cells in the pancreas to make more insulin, helping it to work better.   

Prandial glucose regulators

Similar to sulphonylureas, these tablets stimulate the cells in the pancreas to produce more insulin.They work more quickly than sulphonylureas but only last for a short time, so they need to be taken half an hour before each meal.  

Thiazolidinediones (glitazones)

Glitazones reduce insulin resistance and improves sensitivity, allowing the insulin that the body produces to work more effectively. It also helps to protect the cells in the pancreas, which enables them to produce insulin for longer. The only glitazone licensed for use in the UK is Pioglitazone    

Alpha-glucosidase inhibitor (acarbose)

Slows down the intestine’s absorption of starchy foods, which, in turn, slows down any rise in blood sugar levels after eating.  

DPP-4 inhibitors (gliptins):   

These tablets help your body produce more insulin and reduce the amount of glucose being produced by the liver when it is not needed. This helps lower your blood sugar levels  

SGLT2 inhibitors

These are tablets that reduces the amount of glucose absorbed by your kidneys and your blood.  

Some people with type 2 diabetes may also take tablets related to their diabetes, for example, statins or blood pressure tablets.  

Medicine you inject for type 2 diabetes  

Apart from insulin, the other diabetes medicine that you be prescribed which you inject is: :  

GLP-1s (incretin mimetics):

Increases the level of incretins in the body. Incretins are a type of hormone that help your body produce more insulin when it’s needed and reduce the amount of glucose produced when it’s not needed. They reduce the rate at which the stomach digests food and empties,and can also reduce appetite.  

Next Review Date
Content last reviewed
13 April 2023
Next review due
13 April 2026
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