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What You Need to Know About Your Diabetes Medications

February 24, 2010

Learn More at Upcoming Diabetes Matters Lecture

Diabetes has been around since ancient times. Caused by the body’s inability to produce insulin or by the body’s inability to use insulin effectively, diabetes was a frightening diagnosis – an almost certain death sentence – until 1922, when the first human diabetes patient received an injection of insulin.

"Since insulin was discovered, scientists have made remarkable advances in developing medications to treat diabetes," says board-certified pharmacotherapy specialist Doris Wong, PharmD, BCPS. "While all people with Type 1 diabetes still require insulin injections or insulin pumps, many people with Type 2 diabetes now have options that include many newer medications which can be taken orally. The key, though, is to take those medications properly."

To help you learn more about diabetes medications, Washington Hospital is sponsoring a free "Diabetes Matters" class, featuring a lecture by Wong. A question-and-answer session will follow the lecture. The class is scheduled for Thursday, March 4 from 7 to 8 p.m. in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium in the Washington West Building at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont.

Wong will discuss the types of medications available today for treating diabetes and how they work, including:

  • sulfonylureas such as Glyburide and Glipizide,
  • biguanides such as Metformin,
  • alpha-glucosidase inhibitors (AGIs),
  • meglitinide medications such as repaglinide (Prandin) or nateglinide (Starlix),
  • thiazolidindiones (TZDs) such as Avandia and Actos,
  • more recent medications such as Byetta, Januvia and Symlin,
  • and medications that combine two or more drugs.

"Not every person who has diabetes needs medications, since it often can be controlled with diet and exercise," Wong notes. "Also, not every medication works for everybody. You really need to work in partnership with your doctor and pharmacist, talking with them about the types of medication, the dosage and frequency of use. Learn the pros and cons of various medications, and be sure to inform your physician if you have unusual side-effects. Work with your physician to find out what works for you, and follow up with the doctor to get key lab tests to make sure it is safe to continue taking your medications and that your medications are working as expected.

"People with diabetes need to be pro-active consumers," she adds. "Remember that you are entitled to ask your doctor and pharmacist about any questions you have. Those people who do take medications will still need to watch their diets and exercise. It is important for you to be your own advocate because it is your health, and your life."

"Diabetes Matters" is a monthly program that provides science-based information to people interested in increasing their knowledge about diabetes. The classes are free and require no pre-registration. Many lectures are videotaped and available in the hospital library, as well as on the Washington Hospital Web site. For more information about upcoming lectures, visit and click on the link for "Diabetes Matters."

Come to the Diabetes Support Group
Success in managing diabetes has a lot to do with receiving and giving social support. For people who suffer from diabetes, Washington Hospital’s Outpatient Diabetes Program offers a support group that allows people to have in-depth conversations about what’s happening in their lives and share information about dealing with diabetes in a positive and caring environment. The support group meetings are held at 8 p.m. every month immediately following the hour-long Diabetes Matters lecture which begins at 7 p.m. the first Thursday of each month. Family members and friends are also welcome. For more information about the support group or other classes and programs, call the Diabetes Services program at (510) 745-6556 or visit us on the web: