Last updated: August 10, 2021

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Stabilising blood sugar levels is an important measure in the fight against diabetes. Depending on the medical record, tablets can be used for this purpose to stimulate the body's own insulin production or to reduce the sugar in the body.

With our large diabetes tablet test 2022 we want to present the most popular and best-known active substances and discuss their advantages and disadvantages. We will present metformin, sulfonylureas and SGLT-2 inhibitors in more detail. With the help of our article, we would like to show you what you need to bear in mind when taking these tablets.


  • Tablets for the treatment of diabetes can be used effectively to lower blood glucose levels. However, it is important to note that these can only be used in patients with type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes.
  • These are differentiated according to how they work. The best known are metformin, sulfonylureas and SGLT-2 inhibitors.
  • Metformin lowers sugar levels by reducing the amount of sugar produced by the liver and delaying its absorption into the intestines. Sulfonylureas cause increased insulin secretion from the pancreas.

The Best Diabetes tablets in the United Kingdom: Our Picks

Buying and evaluation criteria for diabetes tablets

If you are considering buying tablets to treat diabetes, there are important criteria you should consider to make the best decision.

These criteria consist of:

To help you with your purchase decision, we will go into detail about the criteria in the following section:

Diabetes Type

The most important aspect that plays a role in the decision for or against the purchase is the type of diabetes. Basically, a distinction is made between type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes. The former means a destruction of the cells responsible for insulin production, therefore there is a complete lack of insulin.

In type 2, the cells do not respond enough to insulin. Gestational diabetes means that there is an increased blood sugar level for the first time during pregnancy.

The use of diabetes tablets only helps to improve the state of health if it is type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes.

The reason for this is that the tablets do not produce insulin in the body, or even consist of insulin, but try to stimulate the body's own insulin production or increase the effectiveness of its own insulin.

The special feature of gestational diabetes is that only tablets with the active ingredient metformin are used, as it has been proven that they produce an effect similar to insulin in this form of diabetes.

Stage of the disease

Even though tablets for the treatment of diabetes can basically be used for type 2 and gestational diabetes, the progress of the disease plays an important role.

Tablets are usually only used at the beginning of the disease.

In particular, when an improvement in the state of health can no longer be achieved through a change in diet and exercise, injections must be resorted to.

While trying to control the disease through the use of tablets, insulin can either be injected as well or not injected at all for the time being.


Depending on which active ingredient is used, it has different effects on the body.

Tablets against diabetes can have a regulating effect on blood sugar, as they try to reduce the sugar production of the liver and at the same time slow down the absorption of glucose in the intestine. One example of this is the active ingredient metformin.

Other tablets try to increase blood sugar levels by stimulating the release of insulin into the blood by the pancreas. These include sulfonylureas.

Tablets can also try to stimulate the kidneys to excrete excess sugar through the urine. These include the SGLT-2 inhibitors.

Mode of action possible active substance
Reduce sugar absorption in the intestine and increase absorption in cells metformin
Increase insulin secretion by the pancreas sulfonylureas
Excrete sugar via urine SGLT-2 inhibitors

To get the best possible result, it is important to discuss possible alternatives with your doctor. It is important to discuss problems with other organs or parts of the body, as in this case a different drug might be preferable.


The intake can differ between the individual active substances.

In general, metformin should be taken during or after meals. The reason for this is that the stomach then reacts better to the drug.

Sulfonylureas are recommended to be taken before breakfast, with a large amount of liquid.

Taking SGLT-2 inhibitors is also recommended in the morning. However, this can be done independently of food intake.

Questions to consider before buying tablets for diabetes

In order to make the best decision regarding the use of diabetes tablets, it is important to be well informed before making a purchase decision. In order to answer all your remaining questions, we will address the most frequently asked questions in this section.

After reading this chapter, you will be optimally prepared for a possible purchase decision.

What is special about diabetes tablets and what are their benefits?

Tablets for the treatment of diabetes are used as soon as the blood sugar level can no longer be regulated purely by adjusting the lifestyle, which includes diet and physical fitness.

At the beginning, an attempt is made to reduce the blood sugar level to a suitable level with the help of an active substance; if this is no longer possible, insulin or a second active substance is needed.


By reducing the blood sugar level with the help of the tablets, it is possible for those affected to continue living their lives almost as before. (Image source: Ben White / Unsplash)

The tablets are used to increase the amount of insulin produced by the body or to decrease the amount of glucose in the body. In comparison, insulin injections inject pure artificial insulin into the body.

Generally, the body's own production is preferred, but at a certain point it is usually unavoidable to switch to insulin injections.

What types of tablets are there for diabetes?

There are a number of different active substances that can be taken in the form of tablets to treat diabetes.

The best-known tablets for the treatment of diabetes are:

type advantages disadvantages
Metformin helps with obesity, with polycystic ovary syndrome very often disturbance of gastrointestinal tract, often taste changes
Sulfonylureas suitable for recent diabetics risk of hypoglycaemia, not for obesity
SGLT-2 inhibitors helps with obesity increased risk of infections

In the rest of this section, we will discuss the individual agents in more detail.

Tablets with metformin

Metformin is a very common active ingredient. It helps to reduce sugar production in the liver, delay sugar absorption in the intestine, and thus lower blood sugar levels by increasing insulin.

In addition to the important effect for diabetes patients, metformin contributes to an improvement in metabolism. This is the reason why the drug is used, especially for overweight patients.

At the beginning of the therapy, an attempt can be made to improve the state of health with metformin alone. If this is not possible or no longer possible, the dose can be increased or a combination with another active substance can be used.

  • Effectively lowers blood sugar levels
  • proven active substance
  • combination therapy possible
  • helps with obesity, helps with polycystic ovary syndrome
  • often side effects
  • including: Gastrointestinal tract disorder, taste changes, lactic acidosis

Possible side effects of the drug include gastrointestinal disturbances, which are very common. These usually occur at the beginning of taking the drug and should return to normal after a short time. More than one in 10 people suffer from nausea, abdominal pain or diarrhoea.

Another side effect can be the occurrence of changes in taste. These are generally not dangerous, but only represent a change. A very rare side effect is lactic acidosis. This can lead to kidney problems due to hyperacidity of the body.

Muscle pain, abdominal pain or a feeling of discomfort are signs of this. If you notice any of these, consult a doctor immediately.

In addition to its use for diabetes patients, it has been found that metformin can also have a positive effect on patients with polycystic ovary syndrome, a hormone disorder in women.

Tablets containing sulphonylureas

These are mainly used by people who cannot tolerate metformin or for whom metformin is not effective enough. It can also be used in addition to other medicines.

Their mode of action is to stimulate the cells in the pancreas to release more insulin, thus lowering blood glucose levels.

These tablets are not used in patients in whom the cells of the pancreas no longer produce sufficient insulin. Furthermore, sulphonylureas can increase problems with one's weight and are therefore very rarely used for diabetics who are overweight.

In addition, patients with kidney and/or liver disease should not take this drug.

  • Effectively lowers blood sugar levels
  • possible alternative to metformin
  • combination therapy possible
  • suitable for recent diabetics
  • Risk of hypoglycaemia
  • not a permanent solution
  • may cause weight problems

A possible side effect is hypoglycaemia, as the sulphonylureas stimulate the cells in the pancreas to release insulin, regardless of the sugar level.

In addition, when starting therapy, one must be aware that the body's own insulin production very often decreases over a few years, which means that most diabetics taking sulfonylureas will have to inject additional insulin in the near future.

It is recommended that sulfonylureas be taken by diabetics who have recently become diabetics, as they only have marginally elevated blood glucose levels and thus the risk of hypoglycaemia is kept in check with a low dose.

Tablets with SGLT-2 inhibitors

The third type of active ingredient we are presenting are the SGLT-2 inhibitors. These ensure that the blood sugar level is reduced by excreting sugar in the urine.

In addition to lowering blood sugar levels, they also have a positive effect on blood pressure. Therefore, they contribute to an improvement of the heart and kidneys.

By eliminating sugar, the amount of calories remaining in the body is reduced, which is why SGLT-2 inhibitors have a particularly positive effect on overweight diabetics. Due to the improvement in blood pressure, they are also used in people with cardiovascular disorders and diseases.

In general, SGLT-2 inhibitors are a very helpful medication for the treatment of elevated blood sugar and can also be taken very well together with other active substances.

  • Improvement of blood pressure
  • suitable for overweight patients
  • combination therapy possible
  • not for kidney or liver problems
  • increased risk of infections

SGLT-2 inhibitors are not suitable for diabetics who have kidney or liver problems and damage. Also not for very old patients, or anyone who is also taking medication that increases the amount of urine.

The biggest side effect is the increased risk of genital infections. The reason for this is the attraction of bacteria and fungi by the increased sugar concentration in the urine.

Women in particular are often affected by this side effect. This side effect is often the reason why patients stop taking the tablets and switch to others.

Who are diabetes tablets suitable for?

As already mentioned, tablets for the treatment of diabetes are only suitable for those affected by type 2 and gestational diabetes.

The reason for this is that they can produce insulin themselves, albeit in too small a quantity, and thus the tablets, which increase the amount produced or the effect of the body's own insulin, are supposed to have a positive effect on health.

Type 1 diabetes patients are dependent on a supply of insulin through injections.

It is important to take other diseases or physical problems into account when deciding which drug to use, otherwise there may be possible negative effects on these areas.

What are the alternatives to tablets for diabetes?

Probably the best alternative to regulating blood glucose levels is a change in lifestyle. The diet must be healthier and lower in sugar. Physical activity also plays an important role in burning calories.


It is important for a balanced and low-sugar diet to have a sufficient supply of vitamins through fruit and vegetables. (Image source: Dan Gold / Unsplash)

Another option would be to take insulin. In this case, tablets that try to lower your blood sugar level are no longer needed, or only needed in small amounts.

How do I stop taking tablets for diabetes?

If the disease does not take the desired course by taking tablets, it is important to switch to insulin injections in time.

It is important to talk to your doctor about a possible discontinuation.

The dangerous consequence of switching too late would be an increase in the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks. Therefore, the sooner the better, patients should talk about a change in their state of health, if they notice one.

Image source: 123rf / 106546153