What drugs can help people with type 2 diabetes produce more insulin?

Medications used to manage type 2 diabetes can be divided into two groups: those that augment your own supply of insulin and those that make your own insulin more effective. Insulin-augmenting agents include the following:
  • Sulfonylureas stimulate the beta cells of your pancreas to secrete more insulin. Examples include: glyburide, glimepiride (Amaryl) and extended-release glipizide (Glucotrol XL).
  • Meglitinides also stimulate your pancreas to make more insulin, but have a shorter onset of action and shorter half-life than the sulfonylureas. The drug in this class is repaglinide (Prandin).
  • D-phenylalanine derivatives help the pancreas produce insulin earlier after a meal and release the insulin for a shorter time compared to sulphonylureas. This helps lower your blood glucose after you eat a meal and is less likely to cause low sugars several hours after the meal. Nateglinide (Starlix), which is also known as a meglitinide, currently is the only medicine in this relatively new group of diabetes pills.
  • DPP-4 inhibitors (dipeptidyl peptidase-4 inhibitors), approved in 2006, help improve A1C without causing low blood sugar. They work by preventing the breakdown of naturally occurring blood sugar-lowering compounds in the body, called GLP-1 and GIP. GLP-1 increases the amount of insulin made in the pancreas and decreases glucose made in the liver. Since GLP-1 works only when glucose levels are elevated, DPP-4 inhibitors lower blood sugar levels only when they are elevated and do not cause hypoglycemia. Sitagliptin (Januvia) is currently the only DPP-4 available.
  • Exenatide (Byetta) is an injectable drug approved in 2005 to help the pancreas produce insulin more efficiently. It is in the incretin mimetics class of drugs. These drugs mimic the effects of incretins (hormones produced by the intestine and released into the blood in response to food). Exenatide is used in combination with metformin or a sulfonylurea and has been shown to aid with weight loss and blood sugar regulation in people with type 2 diabetes.
  • Pramlintide (Symlin) also is an injectable drug approved in 2005 for treatment of type 1 and type 2 diabetes. It is a synthetic analogue of human amylin, which works with insulin to delay gastric emptying and inhibit the release of glucagon. When used with insulin, metformin or sulfonylurea, it has been shown to help with weight loss and reduction in A1C levels.

Continue Learning about Diabetes


Diabetes mellitus (MEL-ih-tus), often referred to as diabetes, is characterized by high blood glucose (sugar) levels that result from the body’s inability to produce enough insulin and/or effectively utilize the insulin. Diabetes ...

is a serious, life-long condition and the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Diabetes is a disorder of metabolism (the body's way of digesting food and converting it into energy). There are three forms of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that accounts for five- to 10-percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes may account for 90- to 95-percent of all diagnosed cases. The third type of diabetes occurs in pregnancy and is referred to as gestational diabetes. Left untreated, gestational diabetes can cause health issues for pregnant women and their babies. People with diabetes can take preventive steps to control this disease and decrease the risk of further complications.

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