For Consumers

Women and Diabetes - Diabetes Medicines

Diabetes can make it hard to control how much sugar (called glucose) is in your blood.

There is hope! Some people with diabetes can take medicines to help keep their blood sugar at a healthy level.

This booklet gives some basic facts about the medicines used to treat people with type 2 diabetes. Facts about insulin are covered in a separate booklet. Use this guide to help you talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist about the kind of medicine that is right for you.

Do not wait. Diabetes is a serious illness.

Diabetes can cause a heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney disease, nerve damage, and other serious health problems. This is why it is so important for you to get treatment for your diabetes. Treatment can help prevent or slow some of these serious health problems.

You can control your diabetes.


Click on these links to go to the different parts of this booklet.

Diabetes Tips
Do you need to take diabetes medicines?
What you can do about side effects?
Warning Signs
Diabetes Medicines
Learn More about Diabetes


Diabetes Tips

  • Talk to your doctor before you change or stop taking your diabetes medicines.
  • Do not take the pills listed in this booklet if you have type 1 diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes need insulin.
  • Ask your doctor about your target blood sugar level.
  • Talk to your doctor or nurse about what you should do if your blood sugar gets too low or too high.
  • Ask your doctor if your diabetes medicines will affect your other medicines including your birth control.
  • Check the FDA website to learn more about Women and Diabetes:

www.fda.gov/womensdiabetes


Diabetes medicines help to keep your blood sugar at a healthy level. There are a few kinds of medicines used to treat diabetes. Each kind affects your body in a different way. Some diabetes medicines are taken as pills that you swallow. There are other medicines that you inject.

Do I need to take diabetes medicines?

Some people with diabetes need to use medicines everyday. What you need depends on your health and the type of diabetes you have. Your doctor can tell you if you need to use medicine to treat your diabetes.

  • Type 1 Diabetes

People with type 1 diabetes make very little on no insulin in their bodies. They must take insulin everyday to stay alive. People with type 1 should not take the medicines listed in this booklet.

  • Type 2 Diabetes

People with type 2 diabetes do not make enough insulin or do not use it well enough. Some people with type 2 diabetes can use pills or other medicines that are injected into the body. Other people with type 2 diabetes need insulin to help control their diabetes.

  • Gestational Diabetes

Some women develop diabetes for the first time when they become pregnant. This is called gestational (jes-Tay-shun-ul) diabetes. Some women with gestational diabetes need to use insulin to control their blood sugar.


My Diabetes Medicines

Ask your health care provider these questions before you start using your diabetes medicines.

  • When should I take my diabetes medicines? How much should I take?
  • How will they affect my other medicines? What about my birth control?
  • What are the side effects of taking my diabetes medicines? What do I do if I start having side effects?
  • Can you show me the right way to check my blood sugar?
  • How often should I check my blood sugar?
  • What number should by blood sugar be (my target blood sugar level)?

Target Blood Sugar Number

Before Meals ____________

1-2 Hours After Meals ____________

Bedtime ____________

  • What should I do if I am pregnant, planning to get pregnant, or breastfeeding

Write down the facts about your diabetes medicines the next time you talk to your doctor, nurse, or diabetes educator.

Name: ____________________________________________________________

Doctor: ___________________________________________________________

Pharmacy: ________________________________________________________

My Glucose Meter:__________________________________________________

Medicine Name How Much Do I Take When Do I Take It What I Should Know
       
       
       
       
       

What You Can Do About Side Effects

Diabetes medicines affect each person differently. These medicines can sometimes cause side effects. The side effects will depend on your body and the type of medicine you are taking. Follow these tips to help you learn how to handle the side effects.

  • Get the facts. Ask your health care provider for the side effects, warnings, and other facts for the medicines you are taking. This booklet does not give all the facts for each kind of diabetes medicine.
  • Speak up. Tell someone about any problems you may be having with your medicines. Your doctor may change your medicine or give you tips to help you deal with the side effects.
  • Check the FDA website. You can find up-to-date safety information about your medicine at: www.fda.gov
  • Report serious problems with your medicines.You or your doctor can tell the FDA about serious problems with your medicines.

Call FDA at 1-800-332-1088 to report serious side effects.

Learn more about reporting problems to the FDA at:

www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/HowToReport/ucm053074.htm

Diabetes Tip: Talk to your doctor before you change or stop taking your medicines.


Know the Warning Signs

Low Blood Sugar

Diabetes medicines can sometimes cause your blood sugar to go too low. This condition is called hypoglycemia (HY-poh-gly-SEE-mee-uh).It happens when there is too much insulin and not enough sugar (glucose) in your blood.

Ask your health care provider to tell you all of the signs and symptoms of low blood sugar.

Some of the signs and symptoms are:

  • Headache
  • Fast Heartbeat
  • Feel Irritable
  • Feel Dizzy
  • Feel Drowsy
  • Sweating
  • Feel Hungry
  • Feeling Confused
  • Feel Weak
  • Feeling Jittery

Many factors can cause your blood sugar to go too low:

  • The Medicines You Take
  • Not Eating Enough
  • Too Much Exercise
  • Drinking Alcohol

What You Can Do

  • Talk to your doctor or nurse.
  • Eat or drink foods high in carbohydrates like fruit juice, sugar candy or regular soda (not diet) when your blood sugar is too low.

High Blood Sugar

People with diabetes can sometimes have too much sugar (glucose) in their blood. This condition is called hyperglycemia (HY-pur-gly-SEE-mee-uh). It happens when your body is not making enough insulin or is not using insulin well.

Ask your health care provider to tell you all of the signs and symptoms of high blood sugar.

Some of the signs and symptoms are:

  • Feel Tired
  • Feel Thirsty
  • Go to the Bathroom a Lot
  • Vision is Blurry
  • Lose Weight Without Trying

Many factors can cause your blood sugar to get too high:

  • Stress
  • Eating Too Much
  • Being Sick
  • Having an Infection
  • Not Taking Your Diabetes Medicines

What You Can Do

  • Talk to your doctor or nurse.
  • Ask if you should change your medicines or what you eat.

Diabetes Medicines

The different kinds of diabetes medicines are listed below. The brand names and other names are given for each drug. There are also some general tips about each kind of diabetes medicine. Ask your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist to tell you the side effects and warnings for the medicines you are taking. This guide does not give all of the side effects or warnings for each drug.

Meglitinide Drugs

How do they work? These pills help your body make more insulin around mealtime.

Brand Name Other Name
Prandin Repaglinide
Starlix Nateglinide

Some Things To Think About

Before you start taking these medicines, tell your health provider if:

  • you have liver or kidney problems
  • you are pregnant or breastfeeding

Common Side Effects

  • Hypogylcemia (blood sugar that is too low)

Check the FDA website for the latest facts on each product.


Alpha-glucosidase Inhibitors

How do they work? These pills help your body digest sugar more slowly.

Brand Name Other Names
Glyset Miglitol
Precose Acarbose

Some Things To Think About

  • These medicines are not likely to cause weight gain or blood sugar that is too low
  • Before you start taking this drug, tell your doctor if:
    you have heart, liver, or kidney problems
    you are pregnant or breastfeeding

Common Side Effects

  • Stomach Pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Gas
  • Abnormal Liver Tests

Check the FDA website for the latest facts on each product.


Thiazolidinedione Drugs

How do they work? These pills help the cells in your body use glucose.

Brand Name Other Name
Actos Pioglitazone
Avandia Rosiglitazone

Some Things To Think About

  • These medicines are not likely to cause blood sugar that is too low.
  • These medicines may raise your chance of having a broken bone (fracture).
  • Before you start taking these medicines, tell your doctor if you have heart failure or liver problems.
  • Rosiglitazone (Avandia) may raise the risk of heart problems related to reduced blood flow to the heart.
  • Rosiglitazone (Avandia) is not recommended for people who take nitrates or insulin.

Common Side Effects

  • Fluid Retention
  • Weight Gain
  • Heart Failure (heart cannot pump blood well)
  • Anemia (low red blood cell counts)

Check the FDA website for the latest facts on each product.


DPP-4 Inhibitors

How do they work? These pills help your body release more insulin.

Brand Name Other Name
Januvia Sitagliptin
Onglyza Saxagliptin
Tradjenta Linagliptin

Some Things To Think About

  • Call your doctor right away if you have severe stomach pain with or without nausea or vomiting. This may be a sign of a serious side effect.

Common Side Effects

  • Upper Respiratory Infection
  • Headache

Check the FDA website for the latest facts on each product.


Sulfonylureas Drugs

How do they work? These pills help your body make more insulin.

Brand Name Other Name
Amaryl Glimepiride
Diabeta
Glynase
Glyburide
Diabinese Chlorpropamide
Glucotrol
Glucotrol XL
(extended release)
Glipizide
* Tolbutamide
* Tolazamide

Some Things To Think About

  • Before you start taking this drug, tell your health care provider if you have heart, liver, or kidney problems.
  • Older adults and people with kidney or liver problems may be more likely to have low blood sugar when taking these medicines.

Common Side Effects

  • Hypoglycemia (blood sugar that is too low)
  • Weight Gain
  • Headache
  • Dizziness

Check the FDA website for the latest facts on each product.


Biguanide Drugs

How do they work? These pills stop your liver from making too much sugar (glucose). They also help the sugar get into your cells.

Brand Name Other Name
Fortamet Metformin
Glucophage Metformin
Glucophage XR (extended release) Metformin
Glumetza Metformin
Riomet Metformin

Some Things To Think About

  • These medicines are not likely to cause weight gain or blood sugar that is too low.
  • People who drink a lot of alcohol and people with kidney problems may have a rare side effect called lactic acidosis. This causes acid to build up in the blood.
  • Talk to your doctor about your kidney health before you start and while you are taking this type of medicine.

Common Side Effects

  • Diarrhea
  • Gas
  • Indigestion
  • Feeling Weak
  • Headache
  • Nausea and Vomiting

Check the FDA website for the latest facts on each product.


Dopamine Receptor Agonists

How do they work? This pill affects a chemical called dopamine in your cells. It is not clear how this pill works for diabetes.

Brand Name Other Name
Cycloset Bromocriptine

Some Things To Think About

  • Do not take this medicine if you are breastfeeding.

Common Side Effects

  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Feel Tired
  • Feel Dizzy
  • Vomiting

Check the FDA website for the latest facts on each product.


Bile Acid Sequestrants

How do they work? It is not clear how this pill works for diabetes.

Brand Name Other Name
Welchol Colesevelam

Some Things To Think About

  • This medicine is also used to treat high cholesterol.
  • Tell your doctor if you are taking other cholesterol medicines.

Common Side Effects

  • Constipation
  • Upset stomach
  • Indigestion
  • Nausea

Check the FDA website for the latest facts on each product.


Combination Drugs

Brand Name Other Name
ActoPlus Met Pioglitazone and Metformin
ActoPlus Met XR (extended release) Pioglitazone and Metformin
Avandamet Rosiglitazone and Metformin
Avandaryl Rosiglitazone and Glimepiride
Duetact Pioglitazone and Glimepiride
Glucovance Glyburide and Metformin
Janumet Sitagliptin and Metformin
Juvisync
This medicine is used to treat
type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol.
Sitagliptin and Simvastatin
Kombiglyze Saxagliptin and Metformin
Metaglip Glipizide and Metformin
PrandiMet Repaglinide and Metformin

Some Things to Think About

  • These combinations are made up of two kinds of diabetes medicines. The side effects depend on which two medicines are in the pill.
  • Ask your doctor the side effects about the pill you are taking.
  • Ask your doctor the facts about the pill you are taking.

Check the FDA website for the latest facts on each product.


Other Diabetes Medicines

Brand Name Other Name
Byetta Exenatide
Bydureon Exenatide (extended-release)
Symlin Pramlinitide Acetate
Victoza Liraglutide

Some Things To Think About

Some people with diabetes can take these medicines that you inject under your skin.

  • These medicines are not the same as insulin.
  • Ask your doctor if you should take these medicines with or without food.
  • Some people feel nauseous when they first start taking these medicines.

Check the FDA website for the latest facts on each product.


Learn More About Diabetes

Resources from the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration)

Other Resources


You Can Control Your Diabetes

  • Make a plan. Work with your doctor, nurse, or diabetes educator to plan how you will manage your diabetes.
  • Check your blood sugar. Use your glucose meter to test your blood glucose (sugar) level.
  • Watch what you eat. Work with your health care team to come up with a meal plan just for you.
  • Use medicines wisely. Ask your health care provider when and how to safely use your diabetes medicines.
  • Be active and get exercise. Dance, take a walk, or join an exercise class. Check with your doctor about safe ways to be more active.
  • Know your ABC’s:
    A - A-1-C blood test measures your blood sugar level over the last 3 months. The A-1-C number should be less than 7 for most people.
    B - Blood Pressure
    C - Cholesterol
  • Monitor your overall mental and physical health. Work with your health care team to keep your feet, eyes, heart, and teeth healthy

This booklet was developed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Office of Women’s Health. To download free copies of this booklet and other diabetes materials visit: www.fda.gov/womens

This booklet should not be used in place of talking to your doctor or reading the label on your medicine. The drug and risk information in this booklet may change. Check the FDA website for the latest facts on each product.

Take Time To Care about Diabetes

Contact FDA

301-796-9440
Fax:301-847-8604
Food and Drug Administration Office of Women's Health

10903 New Hampshire Avenue

WO32-2333

Silver Spring, MD 20993

Page Last Updated: 12/18/2014
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