Frequently asked questions about medication

Q: What is diabetes medication?
Diabetes medication lowers blood glucose levels and there are a number of different types which work in different ways. Note: Diabetes medication is not the same as insulin (though some people with type 2 diabetes do take insulin).

Q: Why should I take diabetes medication?
Diabetes medication is important because it lessens the risk of developing long term complications of diabetes. It will also help you to feel better by relieving the symptoms of diabetes.

Q: Will I have to take my diabetes medication forever?
Diabetes medication cannot cure diabetes and most people will have to take it for the rest of their lives.

Q: Which diabetes medication is best for me?
This will depend on your own individual needs and situation, so you should discuss with your healthcare team about the types of medication available and the most suitable options for you. Whatever medication you are prescribed, it will only work and help control your diabetes if you take it properly and regularly. Make sure that your doctor or pharmacist explains how much medication to take and when to take it.

Q: What should I do if I forget to take my diabetes medication?
However hard you try, you may forget your medication from time to time. Depending on the type of medication and how much time has gone by since your dose was due, it may be advisable to take it as soon as you remember. But this depends on the type of medication, so you should check the patient information leaflet , supplied with your medication, or speak to your healthcare team.

If you find that you often forget to take your medication, discuss this with your healthcare team or pharmacist. It may be possible to simplify your treatment. If not, they can tell you about various ways to help you remember when to take your medication.

Q: Will my medication change?
You may find that, despite keeping to a healthy diet, physical activity and taking your diabetes medication regularly, your diabetes control is not as good as it was. This is because type 2 diabetes is a progressive condition and, over time, you may need more help to manage your blood glucose levels.

Your doctor may recommend increasing the dose of your medication or taking more than one kind of medication. This may happen if your urine or blood glucose test readings are consistently high. Eventually, if your blood glucose levels remain too high, your doctor may recommend insulin treatment.

Q: What should I do if I'm ill and don't feel like eating?
Wherever possible, keep taking your medication as normal. If you have difficulty taking your medication when you are unwell you should contact your doctor or nurse.

Q: Will I have to pay for my medication?
If you treat your diabetes with medication, you are entitled to an exemption certificate, which means all your medication (not just your diabetes medication) is free. Ask for certificate form FP92A at your doctor's surgery.

Q: Who can I talk to about my medication?
If you have any questions or concerns about your medication you can talk to:

  • your healthcare team 
  • your pharmacist

They can help you learn more about your medication, discuss possible side effects and explain how to use it effectively.

Q: Will my diabetes medication upset any other medication I take, or vice versa?
Some medication whether prescribed or bought over the counter, can interfere with your diabetes medication. If your doctor or nurse prescribes you some new medication, always tell him/her about the diabetes medication you take. When buying medication over the counter, always tell the pharmacist that you have diabetes and which diabetes medication(s) you are taking.

Q: Will I have any side effects from taking diabetes medication?
All medications have side effects, and you should check the patient information leaflet in the medication box to see which side effects you might expect from your particular medication. Remember that you are unlikely to experience all side effects that are listed, and you may not experience any at all. If you do experience side effects, speak to your doctor or nurse as there may be another diabetes medication you could try instead.

If you think a medication has caused an unexpected side effect, or even if you are unsure, you can report the problem to the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) on a 'Yellow Card'. You can get a form to apply for a Yellow Card from pharmacies and other outlets across the NHS, telephone 020 7084 2000 or visit www.mhra.gov.uk