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DIABETES: Treatment Options

A summary of the different medications used to treat type 1 and type 2 diabetes.


Detailed Information

Diabetes Medications

Diabetes Medications1,2


Brand Drugs (generic)

Mechanism of Action


  • Glucophage®, Glymetza®, etc (metformin)

Decrease the amount of sugar made in the liver and improve how the body responds to insulin


  • Amaryl® (glimepiride)
  • Glucotrol® (glipizide)
  • Glynase®, DiaBeta® (glyburide)

Help the body release more insulin


  • Prandin® (repaglinide)
  • Starlix® (nateglinide)

Help the body to release more insulin; faster and shorter acting than sulfonylureas


  • Actos® (pioglitazone)
  • Avandia® (rosiglitazone)

Improve how the body responds to insulin

DPP-4 inhibitorsa

  • Januvia® (sitagliptin)
  • Onglyza® (saxagliptin)
  • Tradjenta® (linagliptin)

Help the body lower blood sugar throughout the body

SGLT-2 inhibitorsa

  • Farxiga® (dapagliflozin)
  • Invokana® (canagliflozin)
  • Jardiance® (empagliflozin)

Increase amount of blood sugar removed in the urine


  • Byetta®b, Bydureon®b (exenatide)
  • Ozempic®b, Rybelsus®a3 (semaglutide)
  • Trulicity®b (dulaglutide)
  • Victoza®b (liraglutide)

Slow digestion and lower blood glucose levels

Alpha-glucosidase inhibitorsa

  • Precose® (acarbose)
  • Glyset® (miglitol)

Block the breakdown of starches into sugars

Bile acid sequestrantsa

  • Welchol® (colesevelam)

Not fully understood, help lower blood sugar

Dopamine-2 agonistsa

  • Cycloset®, Parlodel® (bromocriptine)

Help to lower blood sugar after a meal

Abbreviations: DPP-4 = dipeptidyl peptidase-4; GLP-1 RA = glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonist; SGLT-2 = sodium-glucose cotransporter-2.

aOral diabetes medication.

bInjectable (noninsulin) diabetes medication.









  • Afrezza® (insulin human inhalation powder)

12-15 minutes

30 minutes

3 hours

Ultra rapid acting

  • Fiasp® (insulin aspart)5
  • Lyumjev® (insulin lispro)6

1-2.5 minutes

1 hour

2-4 hours

Rapid acting

  • Apidra® (insulin glulisine)
  • Humalog®, Admelog® (insulin lispro)
  • Novolog® (insulin aspart)

15 minutes

1 hour

2-4 hours

Short acting

  • Humulin R® U-100 (human regular)
  • Novolin R® (human regular)

30 minutes

2-3 hours

3-6 hours

Humulin R® U-500

  • Humulin R® U-500 (human regular)7

15 minutes

4-6 hours

13-21 hours

Intermediate acting

  • Humulin N® (NPH)
  • Novolin N® (NPH)

2-4 hours

4-12 hours

12-18 hours

Long acting

  • Basaglar® , Lantus® (insulin glargine)
  • Levemir® (insulin determir)

6 hours

No peak

24 hours or longer

Ultra long acting

  • Toujeo® (Insulin glargine)
  • Tresiba® (insulin degludec)

6 hours

No peak

36 hours

aLength of time before insulin reaches the bloodstream and begins lowering blood sugar.

bTime during which insulin is at maximum strength in terms of lowering blood sugar.

cHow long insulin continues to lower blood glucose.


1Type 2 diabetes. Mayo Clinic. Published January 9, 2019. Accessed February 3, 2021.";

2Medication management - what are my options? American Diabetes Association. Accessed February 3, 2021.

3Novo Nordisk® Corporation. Rybelsus® website. 2019. Accessed November 13, 2019.

4Insulin basics. American Diabetes Association. Accessed February 3, 2021.

5Fiasp [package insert]. Plainsboro, NJ: Novo Nordisk Inc; 2018.

6Lyumjev [package insert]. Indianapolis, IN: Eli Lilly and Company; 2020.

7Humulin R U-500 [package insert]. Indianapolis, IN: Eli Lilly and Company; 2019.

Date of Last Review: June 10, 2021

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