Anti Diabetic Medication/Drugs List to Managing Diabetes

Medically Reviewed By DR. ARJUN SUBASH KALASAPUR, MD (Pharmacology) December 14, 2023

Diabetes mellitus, commonly known as diabetes, is a chronic medical condition characterised by elevated blood glucose levels. Managing diabetes involves a comprehensive approach, including lifestyle modifications, dietary changes, and, in many cases, medication. anti diabetic drugs are a class of medications specifically designed to treat diabetes by helping regulate blood glucose levels. The primary goal of antidiabetic medications is to enhance the body’s ability to manage insulin, the hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar. Let’s take a closer look at anti diabetic drugs.

Purpose of Anti Diabetic Drugs

Purpose of Anti Diabetic Drugs

  1. Maintaining Target Blood Glucose Levels: The primary purpose of anti diabetic drugs is to help individuals with diabetes maintain their blood glucose levels within a target range. This is crucial for preventing complications associated with high or low blood sugar.
  2. Improving Insulin Function: Many anti diabetic drugs aim to enhance insulin function, either by increasing insulin production or improving its effectiveness. This helps cells take up glucose from the bloodstream, reducing elevated blood sugar levels.
  3. Managing Post-Meal Spikes: Some medications specifically target post-meal spikes in blood glucose, ensuring that the body can efficiently process the carbohydrates consumed during meals.
  4. Preventing Complications: By effectively managing blood glucose levels, anti diabetic drugs play a vital role in preventing complications associated with diabetes, such as cardiovascular diseases, kidney problems, and nerve damage.
  5. Enhancing Quality of Life: anti diabetic drugs contribute to an improved quality of life for individuals with diabetes by allowing them to lead more normal and active lives. Properly controlled blood glucose levels reduce the impact of diabetes on daily activities and overall well-being.

Read More: Best Diabetes Diet Plan – Dietary Guidelines For Diabetic Patients

Types of Anti Diabetic Drugs

Anti Diabetic Drugs -Types of Anti Diabetic Drugs

As the prevalence of diabetes continues to rise globally, the importance of effective antidiabetic medications becomes increasingly evident. These medications offer people a spectrum of options to suit their specific needs. Here are some anti diabetic drugs name:


Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas. The body of diabetic people either does not produce enough insulin or does not effectively use the insulin it produces. Insulin therapy is a cornerstone in diabetes management and is administered through injections or insulin pumps. Here are the main types of insulin:

  1. Rapid-Acting Insulin: Administered just before or after meals to control post-meal glucose spikes. This type works within 15 minutes, peaks 1-2 hours after use, and lasts 2-4 hours. Some of these antidiabetic drugs examples include inhaled insulin (Afrezza), insulin aspart (Fiasp, NovoLog), insulin glulisine (Apidra), and insulin lispro (Admelog, Humalog).
  2. Short-Acting Insulin: Typically taken before meals to manage blood sugar during the meal. It starts working in about 30 minutes, peaks in 2-3 hours, and lasts 3-6 hours. Examples include Humulin R, Novolin R FlexPen, and Novolin R ReliOn.
  3. Intermediate-Acting Insulin: Has a slower onset and a more extended duration of action, providing basal insulin coverage. It starts working 2-4 hours after use, peaks in about 12 hours, and lasts 12-18 hours. Examples include insulin isophane (Humulin N, Novolin N).
  4. Long-Acting Insulin: Provides a steady release of insulin over an extended period, often used as a basal insulin.This type lowers blood glucose levels for up to 24 hours or longer, reaching the bloodstream gradually. Examples include insulin degludec (Tresiba), insulin detemir (Levemir), and insulin glargine (Basaglar, Lantus, Toujeo, Semglee).
  5. Combination (premixed) insulins: These are mixtures of different types of insulin for convenience. Examples include NovoLog Mix 70/30, Humulin 70/30, and Humalog Mix 75/25.

Pramlintide (brand name – Symlin):

Pramlintide is an injectable medication that mimics the effects of amylin, a hormone co-secreted with insulin. Amylin helps regulate glucose levels by slowing down the rate at which food is digested and absorbed. Pramlintide works by suppressing glucagon secretion, slowing gastric emptying, and promoting satiety, all contributing to better blood glucose control.

GLP-1 Receptor Agonists (brand name- Byetta, Victoza):

Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists are injectable medications that mimic the effects of the naturally occurring GLP-1 hormone. They stimulate insulin secretion, inhibit glucagon release, and slow down gastric emptying. GLP-1 receptor agonists is one of the anti diabetic drugs causing weight loss and having cardiovascular benefits.

Oral Hypoglycemics (Tablets):

  1. Metformin: A first-line medication that reduces glucose production by the liver and improves insulin sensitivity.
  2. Sulfonylureas: Stimulate the pancreas to release more insulin, aiding in blood glucose control.
  3. DPP-4 Inhibitors: Inhibit the enzyme dipeptidyl peptidase-4, prolonging the action of incretin hormones, which stimulate insulin release.
  4. SGLT-2 Inhibitors: Prevent the reabsorption of glucose in the kidneys, leading to increased glucose excretion in urine.
  5. Thiazolidinediones (TZDs): Improve insulin sensitivity in cells, enhancing glucose uptake.
  6. Alpha-Glucosidase Inhibitors: Slow down the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, helping to control post-meal glucose levels.

Antidiabetic Drugs for Type 1 Diabetes

If you have Type 1 diabetes, your body can’t produce insulin on its own. The goal of treatment is to replace the insulin your pancreas can’t make. Let’s break down the basics of insulin and explore how pramlintide, an amylinomimetic, fits into the picture.

Insulin is the most common medication for Type 1 diabetes. There are over 20 types available in the market, and they come in different forms, such as injections or infusions under the skin using an insulin pump. A combination of long-acting and rapid-acting insulin is often recommended for optimal blood sugar control.

Insulin Delivery Options:

  • Injections: Fine needle and syringe or insulin pen, with a potential need for a mixture of insulin types.
  • Insulin Pump: Small programmable device delivering specific amounts of insulin throughout the day, connected to the body via a catheter and tube or in a tubeless pump pod option.
Type of Insulin Onset of Action Peak Effect Duration Examples
Short-acting (Regular) Around 30 minutes 90 to 120 minutes 4 to 6 hours Humulin R, Novolin R, Afrezza.
Rapid-acting Within 15 minutes 60 minutes About 4 hours Apidra, Humalog, Admelog, Lyumjev, Novolog, FiAsp
Intermediate-acting (NPH) 1 to 3 hours 6 to 8 hours 12 to 24 hours Novolin N, Humulin N
Long-acting Up to 40 hours Varies Up to 40 hours Lantus, Toujeo Solostar, Basaglar (glargine), Levemir (detemir), Tresiba (degludec)

Pramlintide (Amylin):

Pramlintide is an amylinomimetic injectable used before meals. It helps in three ways:

  • Delays stomach emptying: Slows down the time it takes for your stomach to empty after meals.
  • Reduces glucagon secretion: Lowers the hormone glucagon after meals, helping control blood sugar.
  • Curbs appetite: Pramlintide also reduces appetite.

While pramlintide is used in the United States alongside insulin for some with Type 1 diabetes, it’s important to note that it’s not currently prescribed in the UK.

Read More: Connections Between Diabetes and Hypertension.

Anti Diabetic Drugs for Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes requires a tailored approach to treatment as the body still produces insulin, but it struggles to use it effectively. The primary goal of treatment is to help the body use insulin more efficiently and manage excess glucose in the blood. The antidiabetic drugs list for type 2 diabetes is given below:

Oral antidiabetic drugs – Hypoglycemics:

The majority of type 2 diabetes anti diabetic medication are oral drugs, taken in the form of tablets. These medications aim to enhance insulin utilisation or reduce excess glucose in the bloodstream. Some antidiabetic tablets are a combination of multiple diabetes drugs, offering a comprehensive approach to managing blood sugar levels.


  • Used by some people with Type 2 diabetes.
  • Types of insulin used for Type 1 diabetes can also be effective for Type 2.
  • The choice of insulin depends on individual needs and the severity of insulin deficiency.

Alpha-Glucosidase Inhibitors:

  • Aid in breaking down starchy foods and table sugar.
  • Lower blood sugar levels without causing low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).
  • Best taken before meals.
  • Examples include acarbose and miglitol.

Biguanides (e.g., Metformin):

  • Decrease glucose production by the liver.
  • Reduce glucose absorption in the intestines.
  • Improve muscle glucose absorption.
  • Increase sensitivity to insulin.
  • Commonly prescribed, and available in various combinations with other medications.

Dopamine-2 Agonist (Bromocriptine):

  • Acts on rhythms in the body.
  • May prevent insulin resistance and work as prediabetes anti diabetic medication
  • May have additional benefits for cholesterol and weight management.

Dipeptidyl Peptidase-4 (DPP-4) Inhibitors:

  • Help reduce blood sugar without causing hypoglycemia.
  • Block the DPP-4 enzyme, preserving the insulin-producing hormone incretin.
  • Examples include alogliptin, linagliptin, and saxagliptin.

GLP-1 Receptor Agonists:

  • Promote better glycemic control.
  • Increase insulin utilization and pancreatic beta cell growth.
  • Reduce appetite and glucagon usage.
  • Examples include dulaglutide, exenatide, liraglutide, and semaglutide.

Meglitinides (e.g., Nateglinide, Repaglinide):

  • Help release insulin.
  • Not suitable for everyone, especially those with advanced kidney disease.

SGLT2 Inhibitors (e.g., Canagliflozin, Dapagliflozin):

  • Prevent the kidneys from holding on to glucose.
  • Excrete excess glucose through urine.
  • Recommended for specific cardiovascular conditions alongside diabetes treatment.

Sulfonylureas (e.g., Glimepiride, Gliclazide):

  • Stimulate the pancreas to produce more insulin.
  • Among the oldest diabetes drugs still in use.

Thiazolidinediones (e.g., Rosiglitazone, Pioglitazone):

  • Decrease glucose in the liver.
  • Improve insulin resistance but come with an increased risk of heart disease.

Note: Always consult with your healthcare team to determine the most suitable approach for your Type 2 diabetes management.

Read More: Can Type 2 Diabetes be Reversed Permanently?

Gestational Diabetes Anti Diabetic Medication

Managing gestational diabetes often does not initially involve the use of traditional antidiabetic medications like those commonly used in Type 2 diabetes. Instead, the primary focus is on lifestyle modifications. However, in some cases, if blood sugar levels remain elevated despite these measures, medication may be considered. It’s important to note that the approach to managing gestational diabetes can vary based on individual circumstances, and decisions about medication should be made in consultation with healthcare professionals.

Here are some aspects to consider regarding antidiabetic medication for gestational diabetes:

  • Insulin Therapy: This is often the preferred choice if lifestyle modifications alone do not achieve target blood sugar levels. Insulin is considered safe for the baby because it does not cross the placenta.
  • Oral Medications: Oral antidiabetic medications are generally not the first choice for managing gestational diabetes due to limited safety data during pregnancy. In certain situations, healthcare providers may consider medications like metformin, but this decision requires careful evaluation of potential risks and benefits.
  • Potential Risks: In cases where medication is required, healthcare providers may monitor the baby more closely with additional ultrasounds to ensure their well-being. The decision to use antidiabetic medication during pregnancy involves careful consideration of potential risks to the baby and the benefits of maintaining optimal blood sugar levels for the mother.

Read More: 15 Foods To Lower Blood Sugar Levels

Ayurvedic Anti Diabetic Medicine

Ayurvedic Anti Diabetic Medicine

Ayurveda has various herbs and formulations that are believed to have antidiabetic properties. Here are some commonly used Ayurvedic anti-diabetic herbs and formulations that are considered natural antidiabetic drugs

  1. Bitter Melon (Momordica charantia): Bitter melon is known for its potential blood sugar-lowering effects. It contains charantin, which is believed to have antidiabetic properties. It can be consumed as a vegetable, juice, or supplement.
  2. Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum): Fenugreek seeds may help improve insulin sensitivity. They can be consumed in the form of seeds, powder, or as a tea.
  3. Cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum): Cinnamon is believed to have insulin-like effects, helping to lower blood sugar levels. It can be added to food or consumed as a supplement.
  4. Gymnema Sylvestre: Gymnema is believed to reduce sugar absorption in the intestines. It is often used in Ayurvedic formulations for diabetes.
  5. Amla (Emblica officinalis): Amla, or Indian gooseberry, is rich in vitamin C and antioxidants. It is believed to help manage blood sugar levels and improve overall health.
  6. Turmeric (Curcuma longa): The active compound in turmeric, curcumin, has anti-inflammatory properties. It may help improve insulin sensitivity and reduce inflammation.
  7. Neem (Azadirachta indica): Neem is known for its anti-diabetic and anti-inflammatory properties. It may help improve blood circulation and reduce blood sugar levels.
  8. Triphala: Triphala is a combination of three fruits: Amla, Haritaki, and Bibhitaki. It is believed to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, potentially benefiting those with diabetes.
  9. Gudmar (Gymnema sylvestre): Gudmar, meaning “sugar destroyer,” is also believed to reduce sugar absorption in the intestines. It is often used in Ayurvedic formulations for diabetes.

While these herbs have been traditionally used, their efficacy and safety may not be well-established through rigorous scientific research. It is also important to understand that Ayurvedic treatments should not replace conventional medical advice or prescribed medications for diabetes. Always inform your healthcare provider about any complementary or alternative therapies you are considering to ensure they are safe and compatible with your overall treatment plan.

Read More: Chart For Normal Blood Sugar Levels for Adults with Diabetes

Not a Cure, but Aids in Control:

It’s important to understand that anti diabetic medication is not a cure for diabetes. Instead, they act as indispensable allies in the ongoing battle against this chronic condition. These medications are designed to assist the body in managing blood glucose levels effectively. While they do not eliminate diabetes, they significantly aid in controlling the disease, allowing individuals to lead fulfilling and healthy lives.

One of the paramount goals of anti diabetic medication is to lower the risk of diabetes-related complications. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to a range of health issues, including cardiovascular problems, kidney disease, nerve damage, and vision impairment. By effectively managing blood sugar levels, antidiabetic medications act as a shield, helping to reduce the likelihood of these complications and promoting overall well-being. Remember, anti diabetic drugs are most effective when complemented by a healthy lifestyle. Lifestyle choices, including diet, physical activity, and stress management, synergize with medication to create a comprehensive approach to diabetes management.

Read More: Top 10 Natural Remedies For Diabetes?


Diabetes is a lifelong condition, and the use of anti diabetic medication often becomes a continuous part of the management strategy. These medications serve multiple purposes, such as preventing hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). The long-term use of these drugs is essential for maintaining stable blood glucose levels and minimising the risk of fluctuations that can lead to health complications.

As research continues to advance, the future promises even more tailored and effective new anti diabetic drugs and antidiabetic therapies, providing hope for improved outcomes and a better quality of life for those living with diabetes. Through all this, the goal remains consistent: to provide individuals with diabetes the tools they need to lead healthier and more fulfilling lives.Last Updated on by Dr. Damanjit Duggal 


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