Oral Medicines for Type 2 Diabetes

There are many types of pills for type 2 diabetes. Each type helps to lower blood sugar (glucose) in a different way. You may need to take one or more types of these pills.

Only people with type 2 diabetes can use oral medicines to manage their diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes must take insulin.

Diabetes pills that lower blood sugar levels include:


These pills reduce the amount of sugar made in the liver.


These pills stimulate the beta cells in the pancreas to make more insulin. They are either short- or long-acting.


These pills stimulate the beta cells in the pancreas to make more insulin. They work quickly. But they wear off quickly too.


These pills help insulin work better in the muscle and fat. They also reduce the amount of sugar made in the liver.

Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors

These pills block the enzymes that digest starches. They also help slow the breakdown of some sugars. This stops blood sugar from rising quickly after you eat.

DPP-IV inhibitors

These pills boost the body's own ability to lower blood sugar. They do this by blocking an enzyme called DPP-IV (dipeptidyl peptidase).

SGLT2 inhibitors 

These pills block the kidney's ability to reabsorb sugar from the blood. Extra sugar is passed in your urine.

Bile acid sequestrants 

These pills are often used to lower cholesterol. But they also lower blood sugar.

Dopamine-2 agonists

Experts think these medicines help the body's cells respond better to insulin.

GLP-1 receptor agonists

Although usually taken as an injection, this type of medicine is now available in pill form. These increase the amount of insulin your body releases with meals. Some of these have also been shown to help with weight loss.

Some people with type 2 diabetes may take a combination of diabetes pills and insulin. Your healthcare provider will talk with you about your treatment options. Together you will decide on a plan that works best for you. Follow your provider's directions. They will tell you the times, dosage, and frequency of each type of medicine prescribed.

Having a healthy diet and a regular exercise program are also important. That can help control diabetes, even when taking oral medicines. These pills are made to work with diet and exercise. They don't replace them.

Find a doctor or make an appointment: 636.928.WELL
General Information: 636.344.1000
BJC HealthCare