Types of Diabetes Type 2 Medications: Side Effects & Effectivness



What are the types of oral diabetes medications?


9 Types of drug classes of diabetes type 2 oral medications.

Oral diabetes medications are used to improve blood sugar (glucose) control in patients with type 2 diabetes.

Currently, there are nine drug classes of oral diabetes medications approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.

  1. α-glucosidase inhibitors
  2. Biguanides
  3. Sulfonylureas
  4. Meglitinides
  5. Thiazolidinediones
  6. DPP-4 inhibitors
  7. Sodium-glucose cotransporter (SGLT)-2 inhibitors
  8. Dopamine agonists
  9. Bile acid sequestrants

These medications differ in the way they function in the body to reduce blood glucose.


Metformin (Glucophage) is the only biguanide available in the United States and is generally the first choice for oral treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus. Metformin improves

  • the body’s response to natural insulin,
  • decreases the absorption of glucose from the intestines, and
  • reduces the production of glucose by the liver.


Sulfonylureas are the oldest classes of oral diabetes medications. Sulfonylureas work primarily by stimulating the release of insulin. Insulin is the hormone responsible for regulating blood glucose by increasing the uptake of blood glucose by tissues and increasing the storage of glucose in the liver.


Meglitinides and sulfonylureas have a similar mechanism of action. Meglitinides are short-acting glucose-lowering medications. They stimulate the secretion of insulin from the pancreas.


Thiazolidinediones enhance insulin sensitivity meaning that the effect of a given amount of insulin is greater. Thiazolidinediones also are referred to as peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor ? or PPAR-? agonists.

α-glucosidase inhibitors

α-glucosidase inhibitors delay the digestion and absorption of starch or carbohydrates by inhibiting enzymes in the small intestine which help breakdown these molecules. The starches and carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, which then is absorbed from the intestine and increases the level in the blood.

DPP-4 inhibitors

DPP-4 inhibitors help lower blood glucose by increasing the production of insulin from the pancreas and reducing the release of glucose from the liver.

SGLT2 inhibitors

SGLT2 inhibitors or sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 inhibitors are the newest class of oral diabetes medications. They work by reducing the absorption of glucose from the fluid that is filtered from the blood by the kidney, causing more glucose to be eliminated in the urine. These medications increase urinary glucose excretion and consequently lower blood sugar levels.

Bile acid sequestrants

Currently, the only bile acid sequestrant approved for the oral treatment of type 2 diabetes is colesevelam (Welchol). Bile acid sequestrants function primarily in the intestines where they bind to and decrease the reabsorption of bile acid. The exact mechanism by which these agents lower blood glucose is not known.

Dopamine agonists

Bromocriptine (Cycloset) is a dopamine agonist approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. The exact mechanism whereby bromocriptine lowers blood glucose is not known.


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