Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists

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Why do I need another medication?

Jun 10, 2015

When you have diabetes, keeping track of your medication can be overwhelming. There are so many medications used to treat diabetes and its complications, and more are released each year. And most of the time, people have to take a combination of meds to manage their condition.

One medication might be prescribed to treat pre-diabetes and on initial diagnosis of diabetes. And because diabetes is progressive—with insulin production and insulin sensitivity decreasing over time—your healthcare provider adds additional prescriptions to help maintain control of the glucose levels in your blood.

Different diabetes medications have different ways of working (we call it mechanism of action).

The ways that diabetes medications work to improve your glucose:

  • Some drugs make your cells more receptive to insulin
  • Some drugs make the insulin work better
  • Some drugs make the pancreas make more insulin
  • Some drugs decrease the amount of glucose your liver makes.

A plan to improve glucose control often includes a drug from more than one group or mechanism of action.

A very common misconception is that one medication will control diabetes or that once someone goes on insulin, they no longer need oral medications. This is not the case!

Because of the different mechanisms of action, even with insulin, it is common to take several oral medications to treat diabetes. (However, the oral medications that are available now are not effective for type 1 diabetes, so insulin and pramlintide are the main medications prescribed.)

Try to learn more about how your medications work. Ask when you get a new prescription if you should make any changes to your current medication plan. Continue the on-going discussions with your healthcare provider about your treatment plan.

And, of course, continue to make healthy lifestyle choices as part of your management plan. This includes: regular physical activity, control of carbohydrates and fats, and weight loss if needed.

--Sharlene

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