(This post should not be construed as an endorsement or disapproval on any medication or treatment by ME. Every person responds differently to every medication. Case in point, my Type 2 husband can take metformin without any side effects while I am miserable with cramping, nausea and diarrhea. Personally, I do not advocate filing lawsuits because your body responded badly to a medication. Do your homework people and KNOW what you are putting in your body. You always have a choice. (/rant))
There are a large number of medications that can treat type 2 diabetes. Some work better than others, and some have dangerous side effects everybody should know about.
The classes of drugs work in three ways. Some make cells more sensitive to insulin. Other drugs boost insulin production by the pancreas. Then there are drugs that slow down sugar digestion in the stomach.
Drugs that Work on Cells
The drugs that make cells more responsive to insulin are the most popular. They're called biguanides and thiazolidinediones. The only biguanide is metformin. It's one of the first drugs doctors prescribe because it brings down blood sugar so effectively.
The most popular thiazolidinedione is a drug called Actos. Actos is a best seller, but unfortunately it has dangerous side effects. Actos recently was found to increase the risk of bladder cancer by 80 percent or more. In fact, thousands of patients have filed Actos lawsuits against the maker of Actos.
Actos also has other dangerous side effects. In 2007, it got slapped with a black-box warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) because it increases the risk of heart failure. It also has been linked to eye disease and bone fractures.
Drugs that Work on the Pancreas
Drug classes that make the pancreas produce more insulin are sulfonylureas and nonsulfonylurea secretagogues. Be careful because sulfonylureas can bring blood sugar down too much and bring on hypoglycemia.
Nonsulfonylurea secretagogues are short-acting drugs. They are taken before meals to stop your blood sugar from rising when you eat.
Drugs that Work on Digestion
Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors, amylin analogues, incretin mimetics and DDP-4 inhibitors have few dangerous side effects. You take them before meals, and they stop your post-meal blood sugar from going up. Since these drugs work on your stomach to slow the breakdown of sugar, they can cause nausea and flatulence. Because of these side effects, they haven't been too popular in the United States.
Your doctor may have a favorite medication he or she likes to prescribe, but you can always ask them about alternatives to avoid risks like Actos side effects. Together, you can decide the best way to treat your diabetes.
William Richards is a writer for Drugwatch.com. He uses his journalism background to investigate dangerous drugs and promote consumer awareness to better the community.