What time of day is best to take diabetes medication?

Stacy Wiegman, PharmD
Pharmacy Specialist

The best time to take your diabetic medication will vary depending on the medicine you're taking. For example, among pills for diabetes, some are meant to be taken before a meal, some at the first bite of a meal and some with food. Some are taken twice a day while others might be taken three times daily. Insulin may be taken as injections a few times a day or given by pump as a steady dose throughout the day. You and your doctor need to choose not only the best medications for controlling your diabetes, but also the best times to take those medications.

William Lee Dubois

If your doctor didn’t give you any specific instructions, or if you are confused, look at the bottle and the info sheet from the pharmacy. There are a few meds that need to be taken at certain times for maximum effectiveness or for comfort. For instance, the diabetes drug metformin gives some people nausea when taken on an empty stomach, but rarely causes trouble when taken with meals; while the diabetes medication Starlix needs to be taken right before a meal to work right.

For the most part, however, most diabetes drugs have no special timing, so the best time to take them is whenever it will be easiest for you, or when you will be most likely to remember them.

Two other non-diabetes drugs that are common to those of us with diabetes are statins for lowering cholesterol and thyroid meds. Statins should be taken in the evening, as most cholesterol is produced by the liver when we sleep and taking the med at bedtime maximizes its effect. Thyroid meds should be taken on an empty stomach, first thing in the morning, without any other pills.

The best time of day to take diabetes medication varies greatly, depending on whether it is an oral glucose lowering medication, short or long acting insulin or a combination of the three.

A person with type 2 diabetes can be on a myriad of oral agents ranging from ones that stimulate the pancreas to produce more insulin to ones that heighten muscle sensitivity to the insulin the body does produce. For instance, common type 2 diabetes medications include metformin, Actos and Prandin. Metformin is usually taken in the morning with breakfast and/or at night with dinner. However, Actos can be taken once daily with or without food. Prandin, due to its quick action onset in the body, is required to be taken 15 minutes prior to a meal. People with type 2 diabetes can use these oral agents in combination with a long acting insulin such as Levemir.

Insulin use was traditionally used for type 1 diabetes. However it is becoming increasingly more common to see a long acting insulin used at night or in the morning to help better manage type 2 diabetes. Short acting insulin is usually taken right before a meal, and the dose is dependent on any necessary correction factor and the carbohydrate load of the meal to come.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.