West Suffolk Diabetes Service

Drugs and New Products


Oral Hypoglycaemic Drugs

  What are oral hypoglycaemic drugs?

  What are the available tablets for treating diabetes?

  So many tablets - what are the differences between them?

What are oral hypoglycaemic drugs?

These are tablets used to help lower blood sugar. They work as an adjunct or aid to diet and should only be used in the setting of a healthy diet.

Who should receive oral hypoglycaemic drugs?

People with type 2 diabetes, who are poorly controlled on diet alone. type 1 diabetes should always be treated with insulin injections.

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What are the available tablets for treating diabetes?

There are several preparations available

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So many tablets - What are the differences between them?

Each of these groups work in individual ways.

The sulphonylureas work by stimulating release of insulin from the pancreatic beta cells. There are different preparations within this group with largely similar efficacy. The main differences between them relate to how potent they are and the dosing schedule. They tend to be more effective in people with newly diagnosed diabetes. Refer to the separate page on sulphonylureas for more information.

Metformin reduces the amount of glucose produced by the liver and increases uptake of glucose by the cells of the body. It does not stimulate the pancreas.

The Glitazones or Thiazolidenediones to give them their full name, make your body more sensitive to insulin. In other words the amounts of insulin available in your body is allowed to work more effectively.

The Prandial Glucose releasers also stimulate insulin release. They differ from the sulphonylureas in having a rapid action and short duration of activity. They require to be taken at meal time and should be omitted if a meal is missed.

Acarbose works by blocking an enzyme in the bowel. This delays the absorption of starch and sugar in the diet. The impact on blood glucose levels is small and flatulence can be a problem!


Dr. Nishan Wijenaike, Consultant Physician
2002 West Suffolk Hospitals Diabetes Service
October 2002

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Copyright: West Suffolk Hospitals NHS Trust, Hardwick Lane,
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk IP33 2QZ, tel:01284 713000