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Following a healthy diet and getting regular physical activity helps control blood sugar for people with type 2 diabetes. People with type 2 diabetes often use medication to help keep their blood sugar in the goal range. Over time, these medications can become less effective. When this happens, many people need to add insulin to keep themselves healthy and avoid complications from high blood sugar.

People with type 1 diabetes must use daily insulin injections as pills can not replace the insulin they need.

No matter what type of diabetes you have, remember:

  • If you need it, learn how to give insulin. For some people with type 1 diabetes, an electronic insulin pump is very effective.
  • Take time to learn about your medications, including their proper use and how to deal with side effects.
  • Plan ahead. Refill your prescriptions before you run out.
  • Always tell your physician about any dietary supplements, herbal products, or over-the-counter medications you are taking (or considering taking). They may interfere with your other medications. 

Common medicines to control blood sugar*

insulin lispro (Humalog)
insulin glargine (Lantus)
insulin aspart (Novolog)
insulin NPH/R (Humulin, Novolin)
glimepiride (Amaryl)
glipizide (Glucotrol), glyburide (Micronase), and other oral hypoglycemics
pioglitazone (Actos)
metformin (Glucophage)
acarbose (Precose) and miglitol (Glyset)

Linagliptin (Tradjenta) and others ending in "gliptin," Exenatide (Byetta) and SGLT2 drugs ending in "flozin" like empagliflozin (Jardiance) are new drugs that are not yet proven to be as safe and effective as the medications above. For those reasons the above medications are preferred unless there are reasons to use the newer medications. Discuss the pros and cons with your doctor.

You and your doctor will decide which medication is right for you.

For more information about these and other medications, look in our drug encyclopedia.

*This list represents medications from our drug formulary. Other medications are also used to treat this condition, and new medications are always in development. 

Reviewed by: Joshua May, MD, February 2019

© 2019 Kaiser Permanente

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