It is highly recommended for people with type 2 diabetes to eat healthy and to exercise regularly (lifestyle modification approach). However, if blood sugar levels are not controlled by this approach, the treating doctor may consider diabetes medications that are commonly used to manage this condition. These medications are classified into different groups according to their unique action and how they work to help keep blood sugar levels under control. The medications also differ in the way they are administered; some can be taken orally in tablet form whilst others can be injected.

Selection of medication for treating type 2 diabetes

Depending on the patient’s medical history, the treating doctor may prescribe one glucose-lowering agent or more to help manage blood sugar levels appropriately. Usually, metformin (from the biguanide class of medications) is the first choice for people with type 2 diabetes, in addition to lifestyle modification. If metformin alone is not effective in controlling blood sugar levels, another medication can be given as an alternative or in addition to metformin. The type of medication the doctor selects depends on many factors, examples of which are:

  • Risks and benefits of medication selected
  • If the medication causes weight gain or weight reduction
  • Other health conditions the patient has
  • Other medications the patient takes (drug interactions)
  • If patient accepts injections
  • Cost of medication

Glucose-lowering agents do not cure diabetes; they may work together to keep the condition under control. People with type 2 diabetes may need to take multiple medications that work in different ways to reduce high glucose levels. For more information about the different medication groups, below is a summary of the agents belonging to each category:


Insulin Secretagogues

DPP-4 Inhibitors

GLP-1 Analogues

SGLT2 Inhibitors

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