The management of diabetes involves a combination of healthy eating, regular exercise and medication.

Medications prescribed for diabetes come in several different forms: Oral medication, taken by mouth and swallowed. Injectable medication, injected into the fatty layer just under the skin surface.

For type 1 diabetes

People with type 1 diabetes must have insulin to survive. Insulin can only be given by injections or via an insulin pump.

For more information go to: Insulin & Pumps

For type 2 diabetes

Many people with type 2 diabetes will need medications and/or insulin to help keep their blood glucose levels in a target range. 

While all diabetes medications assist with the management of blood glucose levels, they don’t all work in the same way.

Medications are grouped into different classes depending on how they work within the body. Medications within these classes all have their own ‘active name’ which identifies the chemical in the medication that works within the body. The medications also have a ‘brand name’ or ‘trade name’ which is the name given to the medication by its manufacturer.

Details of the different oral and injectable medications for the management of diabetes can be found here.

Often with type 2 diabetes, a single oral medication may be effective for managing blood glucose levels initially. Over time, however, as the condition progresses, or an individual’s circumstances change, additional medication may be added to existing medication to adequately manage blood glucose levels.

It is important to note that the injectable medication, insulin, is used in the treatment of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Medications for type 2 diabetes

In Australia there are seven classes of medicines used to treat type 2 diabetes:

  • Biguanides (1st line treatment) METFORMIN
  • Sulphonylureas (Can cause Hypoglycemia) GLICLAZIDE
  • Thiazolidinediones (Glitazones) APOTEX
  • Alpha-glucosidase Inhibitors ARCABOSE
  • Dipeptidyl peptidase 4 (DPP4) inhibitors JANUVIA
  • Incretin mimetics BYETTA
  • Sodium-glucose transporter (SGLT2) inhibitors FORXGIA

Your doctor will discuss the type of medication best suited to you, when to take your medication and how much to take. It is important that you know about potential side effects. Speak to your diabetes educator, doctor or pharmacist if you experience any problems.

Helpful tips

  • Know the name of all your medications (It’s a good idea to keep a list with you)
  • Know the correct dose of your medications
  • Understand how your medications work
  • Know the correct time to take your medications
  • Know the side effects that your medications may cause

Information sheet: Medications for type 2 diabetes


NPS Medicinewise – provide independent, evidence-based tools and information about medicines. Consumer medicine information (CMI) sheets for most prescription and some non-prescription medicines can also be found.