For Consumers

Women and Diabetes - Diabetes Medicines

Print and Share (PDF 372 KB)

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 page gives some basic facts about the medicines used to treat people with diabetes. Facts about insulin are covered in a separate booklet. Use this page 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 page.


General Tips

There are 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. Some people with diabetes need to use medicines every day. What you need depends on your health and the type of diabetes you have. Your healthcare provider can tell you if you need to use medicine to treat your diabetes.

 

  • Talk to your doctor before you change or stop taking your diabetes medicines.

  • People with type 1 diabetes must use 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. 


 

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.

  • Report serious problems with your medicines.You or your doctor can tell the FDA about serious problems with your medicines. Report online or call FDA at 1-800-332-1088 to request a form.


Diabetes Medicines

The different kinds of diabetes medicines are listed below. These medicines are most often used to treat type 2 diabetes. 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 page does not give all of the side effects or warnings for each medicine.

Meglitinides

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

Brand NameOther Name
PrandinRepaglinide
StarlixNateglinide

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

  • Hypoglycemia (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 NameOther Names
GlysetMiglitol
PrecoseAcarbose

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.


Thiazolidinediones

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

Brand NameOther Name
ActosPioglitazone
AvandiaRosiglitazone

Some Things To Think About

  • Before you start taking these drugs, tell your doctor if you have heart failure.

  • Before you take ACTOS, tell your doctor if you are a premenopausal women (before the "change of life") who does not have periods regularly or at all. ACTOS may increase your chance of becoming pregnant. Talk to your doctor about birth control choices while taking ACTOS.

  • These medicines may raise your chance of having a broken bone (fracture).

     

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 NameOther Name
JanuviaSitagliptin
OnglyzaSaxagliptin
NesinaAlogliptin
TradjentaLinagliptin

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

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

Brand NameOther Name
AmarylGlimepiride
Diabeta
Glynase
Glyburide
DiabineseChlorpropamide
Glucotrol
Glucotrol XL
(extended release)
Glipizide
No brand nameTolbutamide
No brand nameTolazamide

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.


Biguanides

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 NameOther Name
FortametMetformin
GlucophageMetformin
Glucophage XR (extended release)Metformin
GlumetzaMetformin
RiometMetformin

Some Things To Think About

  • Talk to your doctor about your kidney health before you start and while you are taking this type of medicine.

  • 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 (acid to build up in the blood).

Common Side Effects

  • Diarrhea

  • Indigestion

  • Nausea and Vomiting

  • Gas

  • Feeling Weak

  • Headache

     

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 NameOther Name
CyclosetBromocriptine

Some Things To Think About

  • Do not take this medicine if you are breastfeeding.

     

Common Side Effects

  • Nausea

  • Headache

  • Feel Very 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 NameOther Name
WelcholColesevelam

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

  • Dyspepsia (Upset stomach/ Indigestion)

  • Nausea

     

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

 


 SGLT2 Inhibitors

How do they work? These pills affect the kidney to increase the amount of sugar that goes out in the urine.

 Brand Name Other Name
 Farxiga Dapagliflozin
 Invokana Canagliflozin
 Jardiance Empagliflozin

 Some Things to Think About

  • Do not take these drugs if you have severe kidney problems or are on dialysis.

  • Before you take these drugs, tell your doctor if you have kidney or liver problems.

     

Common Side Effects

  • Vaginal Yeast Infections

  • Urinary Tract Infections

  • Changes in Urination 


 Combination Medicines

Brand NameOther Name
ActoPlus MetPioglitazone and Metformin
ActoPlus Met XR (extended release)Pioglitazone and Metformin
AvandametRosiglitazone and Metformin
AvandarylRosiglitazone and Glimepiride
DuetactPioglitazone and Glimepiride
GlucovanceGlyburide and Metformin
InvokametCanagliflozin and Metformin
JanumetSitagliptin and Metformin
Janumet XR (extended release)Sitagliptin and Metformin
KazanoAlogliptin and Metformin
KombiglyzeSaxagliptin and Metformin
Kombiglyze XR (extended release)Saxagliptin and Metformin
MetaglipGlipizide and Metformin
OseniAlogliptin and Metformin
PrandiMetRepaglinide and Metformin
Xigduo XRDapagliflozin and Metformin

Some Things to Think About

  • These combinations are made up of two kinds of medicines. The side effects depend on which two medicines are in the pill.

  • Ask your doctor for the side effects and other facts about the combination drug you are taking.

      

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

 


GLP-1 Receptor Agonists

These are medicines that you inject under your skin. These medicines should not be used instead of insulin.

Brand NameOther Name
ByettaExenatide
BydureonExenatide
TanzeumAlbiglutide
TrulicityDulaglutide
VictozaLiraglutide

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.

  • Some people feel nauseous when they first start taking these medicines.

 

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

 


 

Amylin Analog

This is a medicine that you inject under your skin. This medicine should not be used instead of insulin.

 Brand Name Other Name
 Symlin Pramlintide Acetate

Some Things to Think About

  • People who use insulin can also use Symlin.

  • People with type 1 diabetes can also use Symlin.

  • Symlin should be taken in a separate injection. Do not mix Symlin and isulin in the same injection.

  • This medicine is usually taken before meals.

  • Some people feel nauseous when they first start taking this medicine. 

 


Questions to Ask Your Doctor

Medicine NameHow Much Do I TakeWhen Do I Take ItWhat I Should Know
    
    
    
    
    

 

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

  • How will my medicines affect my blood sugar? 

  • Will it affect my other medicines?

  • What are the side effects?

  • What do I do if I start having side effects?

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

  • What else should I know about my diabetes medicines?

 

Sign Up for a Pregnancy Registry

Pregnancy Exposure Registries are research studies that collect information from women who take prescription medicines or vaccines during pregnancy. Pregnancy registries can help women and their doctors learn more about how diabetes medicines affect women during pregnancy.

The FDA does not run pregnancy studies, but it keeps a list of registries. Check to see if there is a registry for your diabetes medicine or other medicines at: www.fda.gov/pregnancyregistries

 

 


 

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

Page Last Updated: 02/19/2015
Note: If you need help accessing information in different file formats, see Instructions for Downloading Viewers and Players.