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Diabetes Forecast

The Healthy Living Magazine

How Do Diabetes Medications Work?

By Allison Tsai , ,
illustration of blue pills

Chad Baker/Thinkstock

There are a number of drug classes that help control blood glucose in the body. In many cases, people with diabetes take more than one medication, as each class works in the body in different ways.

  • Biguanides. Metformin is in this class and works by reducing the absorption of glucose, reducing the release of glycogen (glucose stored in the liver), and helping the cells in the body use glucose more efficiently.
  • Thiazolidinediones. This class works by increasing the body’s sensitivity to insulin.
  • Sulfonylureas and meglitinides. These kick-start the pancreas’ release of more insulin.
  • DPP-4 inhibitors. These drugs increase insulin production in the pancreas and decrease glycogen (glucose stored in the liver).
  • SGLT-2 inhibitors. This class blocks glucose from being absorbed into the kidneys and causes it to be eliminated through the urine instead.

New Combination Drugs

Four pills that hit the market in the past two years


Brand Name: Xigduo XR
Drug Name: dapagliflozin/metformin hydrochloride extended release
Drug Classes: SGLT-2 inhibitor and biguanide
Dosages: 5 mg/500 mg, 5 mg/1,000 mg, 10 mg/1,000 mg
Manufacturer: AstraZeneca
FDA Clearance: October 2014
Common Side Effects: Diarrhea, Headache, Nausea/vomiting, Throat and nasal inflammation, Urinary tract infection, Yeast infection
How it Works: The SGLT-2 inhibitor removes glucose through the kidneys while the biguanide helps the body use glucose more efficiently, reduces glucose absorption, and reduces the release of stored glucose in the liver.


Brand Name: Invokamet
Drug Name: canagliflozin/metformin
Drug Classes: SGLT-2 inhibitor and biguanide
Dosages: 50 mg/500 mg, 50 mg/1,000 mg, 150 mg/500 mg, 150 mg/1,000 mg
Manufacturer: Janssen Pharmaceuticals
FDA Clearance: August 2014
Common Side Effects: Changes in urination, Diarrhea, Gas, Headache, Indigestion, Nausea/vomiting, Upset stomach, Urinary tract infection, Weakness
How it Works: The SGLT-2 inhibitor removes glucose through the kidneys while the biguanide helps the body use glucose more efficiently, reduces glucose absorption, and reduces the release of stored glucose in the liver.


Brand Name: Kazano
Drug Name: alogliptin/metformin
Drug Classes: DPP-4 inhibitor and biguanide
Dosages: 25 mg/15 mg, 25 mg/30 mg, 25 mg/45 mg, 12.5 mg/15 mg, 12.5 mg/30 mg, 12.5 mg/45 mg
Manufacturer: Takeda Pharmaceuticals
FDA Clearance: January 2013
Common Side Effects: Back pain, Diarrhea, Headache, Hypertension, Throat and nasal inflammation, Upper respiratory tract infection, Urinary tract infection
How it Works: The DPP-4 inhibitor increases insulin production in the pancreas and decreases glucose made in the liver while the biguanide helps the body use glucose more efficiently, reduces glucose absorption, and reduces the release of stored glucose in the liver.


Brand Name: Oseni
Drug Name: alogliptin/pioglitazone
Drug Classes: DPP-4 inhibitor and thiazolidineadione
Dosages: 12.5 mg/500 mg, 12.5 mg/1,000 mg
Manufacturer: Takeda Pharmaceuticals
FDA Clearance: January 2013
Common Side Effects: Back pain, Diarrhea, Headache, Hypertension, Throat and nasal inflammation, Upper respiratory tract infection, Urinary tract infection
How it Works: The DPP-4 inhibitor increases insulin production in the pancreas and decreases glucose made in the liver while the thiazolidinedione increases the body’s sensitivity to insulin.

 
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While she’s still spinning music, DJ Spinderella (aka Deidra Roper) is no longer spinning her wheels when it comes to getting the right information to help her family members who have diabetes. Read more >