Type 2 diabetesUnderstanding medication
Medicines for type 2 diabetes
Most people need medicine to control their type 2 diabetes.
Medicine helps keep your blood sugar level as normal as possible to prevent health problems. You'll have to take it for the rest of your life.
Diabetes usually gets worse over time, so your medicine or dose may need to change.
Adjusting your diet and being active is also necessary to keep your blood sugar level down.
Getting the right medicine for you
Diabetes medicines help lower the amount of sugar in your blood.
There are many types of medicine for type 2 diabetes. It can take time to find a medicine and dose that's right for you.
You'll usually be offered a medicine called metformin first. If your blood sugar levels aren't lower within 3 months, you may need another medicine.
Over time, you may need a combination of medicines. Your GP or diabetes nurse will recommend the medicines most suitable for you.
Insulin isn't often used for type 2 diabetes in the early years. It's only needed when other medicines no longer work.
Diabetes UK has more information about taking medicines for type 2 diabetes.
Taking your medicine
Your GP or diabetes nurse will explain how to take your medicine and how to store it.
If you need to inject insulin, they'll show you how.
Your diabetes medicine may cause side effects. These can include:
- bloating and diarrhoea
- weight loss or weight gain
- feeling sick
- swollen ankles
Not everyone has side effects.
If you feel unwell after taking medicine or notice any side effects, speak to your GP or diabetes nurse. Don't stop taking medication without getting advice.
How to get free prescriptions for diabetes medicine
You're entitled to free prescriptions for your diabetes medicine.
To claim your free prescriptions, you'll need to apply for an exemption certificate. To do this:
- fill in a form at your GP surgery
- you should get the certificate in the post about a week later – it will last for 5 years
- take it to your pharmacy with your prescriptions
Save your receipts if you have to pay for diabetes medicine before you receive your exemption certificate. You can claim the money back.
Travelling with diabetes medicines
If you're going on holiday:
- pack extra medicine – speak to your diabetes nurse about how much to take
- carry your medicine in your hand luggage just in case checked-in bags go missing or get damaged
- if you're flying with a medicine you inject, get a letter from your GP that says you need it to treat diabetes
Page last reviewed: 08/08/2017
Next review due: 08/08/2020