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Anti-diabetic drug

Anti-diabetic drugs treat diabetes mellitus by lowering glucose levels in the blood. With the exceptions of insulin, exenatide, and pramlintide, all are administered orally and are thus also called oral hypoglycemic agents. There are different classes of anti-diabetic drugs, and their selection depends on the nature of the diabetes, age and situation of the person, as well as other factors.



Diabetes mellitus type 1 is a disease caused by the lack of insulin. Insulin must be used in Type I, which must be injected or inhaled.

Diabetes mellitus type 2 is a disease of insulin resistance by cells, which means that drugs either have to increase the ability of cells to accept insulin, or cause more insulin to be created to overcome the resistance, or affect the amount of sugar metabolized.

Several groups of drugs, mostly given by mouth, are effective in Type II, often in combination. The therapeutic combination in Type II may include insulin, not necessarily because oral agents have failed completely, but in search of a desired combination of effects. The great advantage of injected insulin in Type II is that a well-educated patient can adjust the dose, or even take additional doses, when blood glucose levels measured by the patient, usually with a simple meter, as needed by the measured amount of sugar in the blood.

Diabetes mellitus
Types of Diabetes
Diabetes mellitus type 1
Diabetes mellitus type 2
Gestational diabetes

Impaired fasting glycaemia
Impaired glucose tolerance

Disease Management
Diabetes management:
Diabetic diet
Anti-diabetic drugs
Conventional insulinotherapy
Intensive insulinotherapy
Other Concerns
Cardiovascular disease

Diabetic comas:
Diabetic hypoglycemia
Diabetic ketoacidosis
Nonketotic hyperosmolar

Diabetic myonecrosis
Diabetic nephropathy
Diabetic neuropathy
Diabetic retinopathy

Diabetes and pregnancy

Blood tests
Blood sugar
Glucose tolerance test
Glycosylated hemoglobin


Main article: insulin

Insulin is usually given subcutaneously, either by injections or by an insulin pump. Research is underway of other routes of administration.


Main article: Sulfonylurea

Sulfonylureas were the first widely used oral hypoglycemic medications. They are insulin secretagogues, triggering insulin release by direct action on the KATP channel of the pancreatic beta cells. Eight types of these pills have been marketed in North America, but not all remain available. The "second-generation" drugs are now more commonly used. They are more effective than first-generation drugs and have fewer side effects. All may cause weight gain.

Sulfonylureas bind strongly to plasma proteins. Sulfonylureas are only useful in Type II diabetes, as they work by stimulating endogenous release of insulin. They work best with patients over 40 years old, who have had diabetes mellitus for under ten years. They can not be used with type I diabetes, or diabetes of pregnancy. They can be safely used with metformin or -glitazones. The primary side effect is hypoglycemia.


Main article: Biguanide

Biguanides reduce hepatic glucose output and increase uptake of glucose by the periphery, including skeletal muscle. Although it must be used with caution in patients with impaired liver or kidney function, metformin has become the most commonly used agent for type 2 diabetes in children and teenagers. Amongst common diabetic drugs, metformin, a biguanide, is the only widely used oral drug that does not cause weight gain.

  • metformin (Glucophage). Metformin may be the best choice for patients who also have heart failure.[1]
  • phenformin (DBI): used from 1960s through 1980s, withdrawn due to lactic acidosis risk.
  • buformin: also withdrawn due to lactic acidosis risk.

Metformin should be temporarily discontinued before any radiographic procedure involving intravenous iodinated contrast as patients are at an increased risk of lactic acidosis.


Main article: Meglitinide

Meglitinides help the pancreas produce insulin and are often called "short-acting secretagogues." Their mode of action is original, affecting potassium channels.[2] By closing the potassium channels of the pancreatic beta cells, they open the calcium channels, hence enhancing insulin exocytosis.[3]

They are taken with meals to boost the insulin response to each meal.

  • repaglinide (Prandin) - The maximum dosage is 16 mg/day, taken 0 to 30 minutes before meals. If a meal is skipped, the medication is also skipped.
  • nateglinide (Starlix) - The maximum dosage is 360 mg/day, usually 120 mg three times a day (TID). It also follows the same recommendations as repaglinide.

Adverse reactions include weight gain and hypoglycemia.


Main article: Thiazolidinedione

Thiazolidinediones (TZAs), also known as "glitazones," bind to PPARγ, a type of nuclear regulatory proteins involved in transcription of genes regulating glucose and fat metabolism. These PPARs act on Peroxysome Proliferator Responsive Elements (PPRE [1]). The PPREs influence insulin sensitive genes, which enhance production of mRNAs of insulin dependent enzymes. The final result is better use of glucose by the cells.

As a result of multiple retrospective studies, there is a concern about rosiglitazone's safety, although it is established that the group, as a whole, has beneficial effects on diabetes. The greatest concern is an increas in the number of severe cardiac events in patients taking it. The ADOPT study showed that initial therapy with drugs of this type may prevent the progression of disease,[4] as did the DREAM trial.[5]

Concerns about the safety of rosiglitazone arose when a retrospective meta-analysis was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.[6] There have been a significant number of publications since then, and a Food and Drug Administration panel[7] voted, with some controversy, 20:3 that available studies "supported a signal of harm," but voted 22:1 to keep the drug on the market. Safety studies are continuing.

In contrast, at least one large prospective study, PROactive 05, has shown that pioglitazone may decrease the overall incidence of cardiac events in people with type II diabetes who have already had a heart attack.[8]

Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors

Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors are "diabetes pills" but not technically hypoglycemic agents because they do not have a direct effect on insulin secretion or sensitivity. These agents slow the digestion of starch in the small intestine, so that glucose from the starch of a meal enters the bloodstream more slowly, and can be matched more effectively by an impaired insulin response or sensitivity. These agents are effective by themselves only in the earliest stages of impaired glucose tolerance, but can be helpful in combination with other agents in type 2 diabetes.

These medications are rarely used in the United States because of the severity of their side effects (flatulence and bloating). They are more commonly prescribed in Europe.

They do have the potential not to cause weight gain and even to cause weight loss, by lowering the amount of sugar metabolized.

Peptide analogs


Incretin mimetics

Incretins are insulin secretagogues. The two main candidate molecules that fulfill criteria for being an incretin are Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) and Gastric inhibitory peptide (aka glucose-dependent Insulinotropic peptide or GIP). Both GLP-1 and GIP are rapidly inactivated by the enzyme dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP-4).

Glucagon-like peptide (GLP) analogs

GLP agonists bind to a membrane GLP receptor.[3] As a consequence of this, Insulin release from the pancreatic beta cells is increased. Endogenous GLP has a half life of only a few minutes; thus an analogue of GLP would not be practical.

  • Exenatide (also Exendin-4, marketed as Byetta) is the first GLP agonist approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Exenatide is not an analogue of GLP, but rather a GLP agonist.[citation needed] Exenatide has only a 53% homology with GLP, which increases its resistance to degradation by DPP-4 and extends its half-life.[9]
  • Liraglutide is being developed by Novo Nordisk. As of 2007, it is in phase III clinical trials.[10]

Gastric inhibitory peptide (GIP) analogs

  • None are FDA approved

DPP-4 inhibitors

Dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP-4) inhibitors increase blood concentration of the incretin GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide-1) by inhibiting its degradation by dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP-4). Examples are:

Amylin analogues

Amylin agonist analogues slow gastric emptying and suppress glucagon. As of 2007, pramlintide is the only clinically available amylin analogue. Like insulin, it is administered by subcutaneous injection. The most frequent and severe adverse effect of pramlintide is nausea, which occurs mostly at the beginning of treatment and gradually reduces.

Experimental agents

Many other potential drugs are currently in investigation by pharmaceutical companies. Some of these are simply newer members of one of the above classes, but some work by novel mechanisms. For example, at least one compound that enhances the sensitivity of glucokinase to rising glucose is in the stage of animal research. Others are undergoing phase I/II studies.

  • PPARα/γ ligands (muraglitazar and tesaglitazar) - development stopped due to adverse risk profile
  • SGLT (sodium-dependent glucose transporter 1) inhibitors increase urinary glucose.
  • FBPase (fructose 1,6-bisphosphatase) inhibitors decrease gluconeogenesis in liver.

Herbal extracts

The first registered use of anti-diabetic drugs was as herbal extracts used by Indians in the Amazon Basin for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, and today promoted as vegetable insulin although not formally an insulin analog.[11] The major recent development was done in Brazil around Myrcia sphaerocarpa and other Myrcia species.

"Many countries, especially in the developing world, have a long history of the use of herbal remedies in diabetes (...) STZ diabetic rats were also used to test Myrcia Uniflora extracts (...) ".[12]

The usual treatment is with concentrated (root) Myrcia extracts, commercialized in a 4 US dollar per kilogram packed rocks (~100 times cheaper than equivalent artificial drugs), named "Pedra hume de kaá". Phytochemical analysis of the Myrcia extracts reported kinds of flavanone glucosides (myrciacitrins) and acetophenone glucosides (myrciaphenones), and inhibitory activities on aldose reductase and alpha-glucosidase.[13]

A recent review article presents the profiles of plants with hypoglycaemic properties, reported in the literature from 1990 to 2000 and states that "Medical plants play an important role in the management of diabetes mellitus especially in developing countries where resources are meager."[14]



  1. ^ Eurich DT, McAlister FA, Blackburn DF, et al (2007). "Benefits and harms of antidiabetic agents in patients with diabetes and heart failure: systematic review". BMJ 335 (7618): 497. doi:10.1136/bmj.39314.620174.80. PMID 17761999.
  2. ^ Rendell M (2004). "Advances in diabetes for the millennium: drug therapy of type 2 diabetes". MedGenMed 6 (3 Suppl): 9. PMID 15647714. Free full text with registration at Medscape. Full text at PMC: 1474831
  3. ^ a b Helping the pancreas produce insulin. HealthValue. Retrieved on 2007-09-21.
  4. ^ Haffner, Steven M. (2007). Expert Column - A Diabetes Outcome Progression Trial (ADOPT). Medscape. Retrieved on 2007-09-21.
  5. ^ Gagnon, Louise (2007). DREAM: Rosiglitazone Effective in Preventing Diabetes. Medscape. Retrieved on 2007-09-21.
  6. ^ Nissen, Steven E.; Wolksi, K (2007-06-14). "Effect of Rosiglitazone on the Risk of Myocardial Infarction and Death from Cardiovascular Causes (early web release)". N Engl J Med 356 (24): 2457–2471. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa072761. PMID 17517853. Retrieved on 2007-05-21.
  7. ^ Wood, Shelley (2007-07-31). FDA Advisory Panels Acknowledge Signal of Risk With Rosiglitazone, but Stop Short of Recommending Its Withdrawal. Heartwire. Retrieved on 2007-09-21.
  8. ^ Erdman, Erland; Dormandy, JA; Charbonnel, B; Massi-Benedetti, M;Moules, IK;Skene,AM (2007). "The Effect of Pioglitazone on Recurrent Myocardial Infarction in 2,445 Patients With Type 2 Diabetes and Previous Myocardial Infarction. Results From PROactive (PROactive 05)". J Am Coll Cardiol 49 (17): 1772–1780. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2006.12.048. PMID 17466227. Retrieved on 2007-05-21.
  9. ^ Cvetković RS, Plosker GL (2007). "Exenatide: a review of its use in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (as an adjunct to metformin and/or a sulfonylurea)". Drugs 67 (6): 935-54. PMID 17428109.
  10. ^ Novo Nordisk A/S - R&D Pipeline: Liraglutide (NN2211). Novo Nordisk (2007). Retrieved on 2007-09-30.
  11. ^ Soumyanath, Amala(ed.) (2005-11-01). Traditional Medicines for Modern Times, 1st Edition (in english), Taylor & Francis. ISBN 0-415-33464-0. 
  12. ^ McNeill, John H. (1999-02-01). Experimental Models of Diabetes, 1st Edition (in english), CRC Press, 208. ISBN 0-8493-1667-7. 
  13. ^ Matsuda, H; Nishida N, Yoshikawa M. (Mar 2002). "Antidiabetic principles of natural medicines. V. Aldose reductase inhibitors from Myrcia multiflora DC. (2): Structures of myrciacitrins III, IV, and V.". Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo) 50(3): 429-31.
  14. ^ Bnouham M et al (2006). "Medicinal plants with potential antidiabetic activity - A review of ten years of herbal medicine research (1990-2000)". Int J Diabetes & Metabolism 14: 1-25.


  • Lebovitz, Harold E. (2004). Therapy For Diabetes Mellitus and Related Disorders, 4th ed., Alexandria, VA: American Diabetes Association. ISBN 1-58040-187-2. 
  • Adams, Michael Ian; Holland, Norman Norwood (2003). Core Concepts in Pharmacology. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. ISBN 0-13-089329-3. 

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Anti-diabetic_drug". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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