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Finding the right treatment for you

The fundamentals of type 2 diabetes management are promoting a lifestyle that includes a healthy diet, regular physical activity, smoking cessation and maintenance of healthy body weight1. If attempts to change lifestyle are not sufficient to control blood glucose levels, medication is usually initiated.

This article provides a topline overview to help people with type 2 diabetes begin discussions with their doctors. It is not a comprehensive document and is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor or other healthcare professionals.

Treating type 2 diabetes through medication

Frequently asked questions
3 min. read

Frequently asked questions

Find some of the common questions and concerns about starting diabetes treatment.

Insulin treatment for type 2 diabetes
2 min. read

Insulin treatment for type 2 diabetes

Insulin treatment helps your body absorb glucose - learn about the different options that can be tailored to your treatment needs.

GLP 1 treatment and how it works

GLP 1 treatment and how it works

Glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) is a naturally occurring hormone in the body. Although its production is inhibited in people with type 2 diabetes, its function remains possible.

Medication overview

Diabetes medications use a range of approaches to bring your blood sugar under control by affecting how the body handles insulin and/or sugar1.

Medicines can cause side effects in some people. If you do suffer from any, it’s worth talking to your doctor as there may be ways to manage the side effects, or there may be another medicine that could work better for you. Speak to your doctor to find out more.

People with type 2 diabetes should reassess their medications every 3–6 months1. Are you on the right medication for you? Read on to find out more and be sure to discuss it with your doctor!

Step 1 on the medication map

Metformin  (biguanides)  is the first medicine generally prescribed to people with type 2 diabetes who require medication in addition to diet and exercise to maintain their target blood sugar level1. Metformin is the only medicine in the biguanide class and is taken orally as a tablet. In some cases, other or additional medicines may also be considered depending on factors such as your cardiovascular risk or kidney problems1.

Metformin works by reducing the amount of sugar your liver releases into the blood and helps your body respond better to insulin2.

Potential benefits of Metformin2:

  • Helps to lower blood sugar throughout the day
  • Benefits to your cardiovascular health 

Potential risks of Metformin3:

  • Common side effects include those of the gut, including diarrhoea and nausea
  • May not be suitable in people with kidney disease

Are you aware of cardiovascular risk?

People with type 2 diabetes are 2-4 times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke compared to someone living without diabetes4,5.

Learn how you can reduce the risk.

Step 2 on the medication map

Check with your doctor, if you don’t need any extra protection for your heart or kidneys and your blood sugars are well-controlled, you may be able to stay on metformin alone. If your diabetes evolves and metformin is not enough to control your blood sugar alone, your doctor can recommend another treatment option1.

A range of other treatment options is available, with a range of different combinations being possible. The medication map will be there to support you to navigate the treatments landscape!

Alternative medications


Dipeptidyl peptidase-4 inhibitors (DPP-4is) are oral medicines that help increase the amount of insulin produced after eating and reduce the amount of sugar released by the liver when it’s not needed. They also slow down digestion7.

Potential benefits of DPP-4is7:

  • May help to control appetite

Potential risks of DPP-4is7:

  • Common side effects include those of the  gut, including diarrhoea and nausea, and  flu-like symptoms

Thiazolidinediones (TZDs)

Thiazolidinediones are  oral medicines that increase the body’s sensitivity to insulin and increase the amount of ‘good’ cholesterol in the blood8.

Potential benefits of TZDs8:

  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Increased levels of ’good cholesterol’

Potential risks of TZDs8:

  • Weight gain
  • Fluid retention

Sulfonylureas (SUs)

Sulfonylureas can be taken orally around a meal to simulate the production of insulin by the pancreas and increase the effectiveness of insulin in the body9.

Potential benefits of SUs9:

  • Their effect on increasing insulin secretion and therefore helping to reduce blood glucose levels

Potential risks of SUs9:

  • Modest weight gain
  • Low blood sugar (hypos)


GLP-1 RAs and SGLT-2is

A diabetes doctor might prescribe glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1 RAs) and sodium-glucose cotransporter-2 inhibitor (SGLT-2is) to a range of different people living with type 2 diabetes for a range of reasons3.


GLP-1 RAs can be taken orally or given by a once-daily or once-weekly injection under the skin, depending on the medicine. GLP-1 RA medicines work in several ways: they slow down food leaving your stomach and help reduce the amount of sugar released from your liver. When your blood sugar gets high, GLP-1 RAs also increase the amount of insulin released by your pancreas1


SGLT-2is are oral medicines. These medications work to reduce blood sugars by preventing the kidneys from reabsorbing sugar back into the blood and therefore increasing the amount of sugar lost in the urine1

Potential benefits of SGLT-2is1,3

  • Reduce blood pressure and weight loss  
  • Particularly recommended for those with heart failure or chronic kidney disease

Potential risks of SGLT-2is1:

  • Increased chance of urinary and genital infections
  • Lower efficacy at later stages of chronic kidney disease

Treating type 2 diabetes through lifestyle

How to manage diabetes through exercise
3 min. read

How to manage diabetes through exercise

You’ve probably had someone tell you to make exercise part of your life. You’ve probably heard there’s a mountain of evidence that our bodies are meant to be used and move around.

How to manage diabetes with diet
3 min. read

How to manage diabetes with diet

Eating healthy is important for everyone, but it's even more important for people living with type 2 diabetes.

4 tips for better weight management
2 min. read

4 tips for better weight management

Being overweight (or carrying excess body weight) can increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Get familiar with diabetes and how you can manage type 1 or 2 diabetes

Living with diabetes

Living with diabetes

Diabetes is considered a critical illness because, over time, high glucose levels in the blood can cause severe damage to your heart, eyes, kidneys, and other organs10 . With the correct management, care, and treatment, many people living with diabetes manage to live a close to normal and healthy life. 

About diabetes

About diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition where the pancreas is unable to make sufficient insulin levels, and the body doesn’t correctly use the insulin that is made. Type 2 symptoms can appear gradually over time and can be managed through medication, exercise, and diet11 .

Treatment for diabetes
1 min. read

Treatment for diabetes

Type 2 diabetes treatment guidelines are considerably different to type 1 treatment guidelines. While type 1 is dependent on insulin injections, type 2 diabetes can be treated initially without medication or tablets.  However, as the disease progresses over time, medication may be needed to keep blood sugar levels under control11 .



  1. Davies MJ, Aroda VR, Collins BS, et al. Management of Hyperglycemia in Type 2 Diabetes, 2022. A Consensus Report by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD). Diabetes Care. 2022;45(11):2753-2786. 
  2. Diabetes UK. Metformin and diabetes. Available from: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/managing-your-diabetes/treating-your-diabetes/tablets-and-medication/metformin. Last accessed: April 2024.
  3. American Diabetes Association Professional Practice Committee. 9. Pharmacologic Approaches to Glycemic Treatment: Standards of Care in Diabetes-2024. Diabetes Care. 2024;47(Suppl 1):S158-S178. 
  4. Fox CS, Coady S, Sorlie PD, et al. Trends in cardiovascular complications of diabetes. Jama. 2004;292:2495-2499. 
  5. Almdal T, Scharling H, Jensen JS, et al. The independent effect of type 2 diabetes mellitus on ischemic heart disease, stroke, and death: a population-based study of 13,000 men and women with 20 years of follow-up. Arch Intern Med. 2004;164:1422–1426.
  6. Mosenzon O, Alguwaihes A, Leon JLA, et al. CAPTURE: a multinational, cross-sectional study of cardiovascular disease prevalence in adults with type 2 diabetes across 13 countries. Cardiovasc Diabetol. 2021;20:154.
  7. Diabetes UK. DPP-4 Inhibitors. Available from:  https://www.diabetes.co.uk/diabetes-medication/dpp-4-inhibitors.html. Last accessed: April 2024.
  8. Diabetes UK. Thiazolidinediones (Glitazones). Available from: https://www.diabetes.co.uk/diabetes-medication/thiazolidinediones.html Last accessed: April 2024.
  9. Diabetes.co.uk. Sulphonylureas. Available from: https://www.diabetes.co.uk/diabetes-medication/sulphonylureas.html. Last accessed: April 2024.
  10. World Health Organization. Diabetes. Available from: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/diabetes. Last accessed: April 2024.
  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Type 2 Diabetes. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/type2.html. Last accessed: April 2024.