Oral Diabetes Medication

Oral diabetes medications are medicines that people with varying blood sugar levels take orally. They help control and manage diabetes in people whose bodies can still produce insulin but not enough to prevent the condition. Doctors prescribe these medications for specific diabetes types, such as type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes only take synthetic insulin through injections.

How do these medications work?

Oral diabetes medications lowers blood sugar levels. It enables the pancreas to produce more insulin and stabilize blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. It prevents insulin resistance from becoming more severe and inhibits diabetes-related complications.

It’s a fact that insulin resistance is the most significant contributor to type 2 diabetes. This impairment of insulin sensitivity occurs when the body cells don’t respond well to the hormone. When the condition flares up, the pancreas needs to release more insulin to keep blood sugar levels healthy. However, if the pancreas is unable to produce the required amount of insulin, hyperglycemia occurs.

Thankfully, oral diabetes medications are available to help the pancreas with its function. However, regular physical activities and proper diet need to accompany the medication routines to reduce insulin resistance.

Types of oral diabetes medications

There are nine types of oral diabetes medications available today. Here, we listed the most common ones to help manage your blood sugar levels.

Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors

These oral medications block the breakdown of starches and help lower blood sugar levels. Acarbose (Precose) and Miglitol (Glyset) are the most common forms of alpha-glucosidase inhibitors.


These medications work by preventing the production of glucose in the liver. They help the muscle tissues become more sensitive to insulin and glucose absorption for energy. The most common Biguanide is Metformin, which is available in brand names like Glucophage, Glumetza, Fortamet, and Riomet.

Bile acid sequestrants (BASs)

This oral medication class is a good choice if you have high cholesterol levels along with diabetes. The medications under BASs are not absorbed in the bloodstream, which is beneficial if you are battling liver problems. The most common BASs is Colesevelam (Welchol).

Dopamine-2 agonists

Besides biguanides, dopamine-2 agonists also decrease the production of glucose in the liver. They reset the hypothalamic circadian rhythm and reverse insulin resistance. This process helps improve insulin sensitivity. The only FDA-approved drug for this class is Bromocriptine (Cycloset).

DPP-4 inhibitors (gliptins)

These inhibitors  keep a specific body compound called GLP-1 active. This compound reduces blood sugar levels; however, it can stop functioning. DPP-4 inhibitors affect how the compound works by allowing it to remain active. This process helps lower blood glucose levels. These inhibitors include Alogliptin, Linagliptin, Saxagliptin, and Sitagliptin.

Meglitinides (glinides)

Meglitinides stimulate the production of insulin. If your doctor prescribes these medications, you must take them before meals. Meglitinides increases insulin production, thus, protecting you from episode of diabetes attacks. These medications include Nateglinide (Starlix) and Repaglinide (Prandin).

SGLT2 inhibitors

Also known as sodium-glucose transporter 2, this new class of oral diabetes medication works by removing extra glucose from the body and secreting it through urine. They prevent the body from glucose reabsorption. These inhibitors include Canagliflozin (Invokana), Dapagliflozin (Farxiga), and Empagliflozin (Jardiance).


Sulfonylureas have the same function as Meglitinides. They work by stimulating the pancreas to release more of the hormone insulin. This process makes it easier to manage blood sugar levels and prevent the risk of hyperglycemia. The list of Sulfonylureas includes Glimepiride (Amaryl), Glipizide (Glucotrol), and Glyburide (Micronase, Diabeta, and Glynase).

Thiazolidinediones (TZDs)

TZDs help the body respond better to the hormone insulin. Besides improving insulin sensitivity, these medicines also reduce the production of glucose in the liver. The most common TZDs are Rosiglitazone (Avandia) and Pioglitazone (Actos).