Medication and side effects

Monday, 6 April 2020

Medication is one tool that doctors use to help you manage your blood glucose levels (BGLs) when you are living with diabetes. If you have type 2 diabetes there are a large number of oral medications (tablets) and non-insulin injectable medications, as well as insulin.

Many of these medications have side effects. For a prescribing doctor it can be a juggling act to work out the medication that is best for you and gives the best diabetes management. When prescribing, doctors will take into consideration any side effects that may affect you, the patient.

Side effects

Side effects can be positive or negative. For example, a person who would like to lose weight may benefit from a medication that causes weight loss, so this would be a positive side effect. However, in a person who does not need to lose weight, such a medication would be a negative side effect.

It is not uncommon for people to start a new diabetes medication and experience fluctuations in blood glucose and perhaps weight gain.  Some medications for type 2 diabetes can also cause nausea, diarrhoea or cramping. Usually side effects will resolve after a number of weeks. Your doctor may ask you to persist for some weeks in order to give your body time to adjust to the medication.

Currently there are eight classes of medications for treating type 2 diabetes, including 15 different drugs. These drugs are given as oral or injectable medications. Doctors can prescribe these medications with varying dosages, dosage forms or as combination medications.


If you are interested in the side effects of your medications you can ask your pharmacist for a ‘consumer medicines information’ leaflet. These leaflets outline information regarding the medication and will list common side effects as well.

It is unnecessary to feel sick from your medications. If you think that you have given a medication time to settle down and it is still adversely affecting your quality of life, then we urge you to talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

You can also seek advice from our national helpline on 1300 342 238 to talk to a health professional.


Alison Crow Pharmacist, Credentialled Diabetes Educator

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