How do medications treat type 2 diabetes?

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Parveen K. Verma, DO
Endocrinology Diabetes & Metabolism
There are many different combinations of medications used to treat type 2 diabetes, so if one medication doesn't work, people shouldn't get discouraged.

Primarily, medications are used to control blood sugar, but treatment of type 2 diabetes is not just about blood sugar control. Doctors look at overall health risks, from blood pressure to obesity, and take that all into account to figure out a medication regimen that can address many of those.

Many of the medications used today also have some other beneficial effects such as weight reduction, some may slightly improve blood pressure, and some of the newer agents also have some indications to reduce cardiovascular deaths. A person may take a medication that controls blood sugar, but also assists with weight loss as well, depending on the person's other health issues.

People who have had type 2 diabetes for a long period of time, or if their blood sugar is significantly elevated, may require insulin. Diabetes is a chronic disease where there's going to be destruction of the cells in the pancreas that make insulin. Over time people with type 2 diabetes may need insulin, so a combination of pills and insulin may be used to keep the blood sugar at goal.

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Ronald Tamler, MD
Endocrinology Diabetes & Metabolism

Metformin is the most commonly used drug to treat type 2 diabetes. In this video, Ronald Tamler, MD, clinical director of the Mount Sinai Diabetes Center, talks about common drugs used to treat type 2 diabetes.


If you have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you may not need to take any medication. The primary ways to manage type 2 diabetes are sticking to a proper diet and exercise program, and testing blood glucose levels regularly to make sure they're within a target range. However, you may need some medications to help stabilize your blood glucose levels and keep them within as normal a range as possible. These medications-whether pills, insulin, or other medicines-help maintain sufficient insulin in the body. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas, and is required to stabilize blood glucose levels.

Continue Learning about Type 2 Diabetes Treatment

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.