Sulfonylureas are medications that force the pancreas to make more insulin. As a result, they are very effective at controlling blood sugar, but are also more likely to cause dangerously low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). These medications include:
- Chlorpropamide (Diabinese®)
- Glimepiride (Amaryl®)
- Glipizide (Glucotrol®)
- Glyburide (DiaBeta®, Micronase®, Glynase®)
- Tolazamide (Tolinase®)
- Tolbutamide (Orinase®).
Metformin (Fortamet®, Glucophage®, Glucophage XR®, Glumetza®, or Riomet®) is the only biguanide medication currently available. Metformin works by helping the body use its natural insulin better. It also decreases sugar (glucose) production by the liver, and decreases sugar absorption from the diet.
Meglitinides are similar to sulfonylureas, in that they force the pancreas to produce more insulin. However, they are short-acting and are less likely to cause dangerously low blood sugar. They are usually taken before every meal. Meglitinides include:
Alpha Glucosidase Inhibitors
These diabetes drugs prevent the breakdown of sugar and carbohydrates in the digestive tract, slowing their absorption. These medications are used to decrease blood sugar levels after meals. Types of this diabetes medication include:
Dipeptidyl Peptidase Inhibitors
This is a relatively new class of oral diabetes drugs. Currently, there are four medications available in the group -- alogliptin (Nesina®), linagliptin (Tradjenta®), sitagliptin (Januvia®), and saxagliptin (Onglyza®). These drugs increase incretin levels in the body. Incretin is a hormone that helps to control blood sugar.