Understanding medication

Most people need medicine to control their type 2 diabetes. Medicine helps keep your blood sugar level as normal as possible to prevent health problems. You’ll have to take it for the rest of your life.

Diabetes usually gets worse over time so your medicine or dose will need to change.

Adjusting your diet and being active is also necessary to keep your blood sugar level down.

Getting the right medicine for you

Diabetes medicines help lower the amount of sugar in your blood.

There are many types of medicine for type 2 diabetes. It can take time to find a medicine and dose that’s right for you.

You’ll usually be offered a medicine called metformin first. If your blood sugar levels haven’t lowered within 3 months, you may need another medicine.

Over time, you may need a combination of medicines. Your GP or diabetes nurse will recommend the medicines most suitable for you.

Insulin isn’t often used for type 2 diabetes in the early years. It’s needed only when other medicines no longer work.

Diabetes UK has more information about taking medicines for type 2 diabetes.

Taking your medicine

Your GP or diabetes nurse will explain how to take your medicine and how to store it. If you need to inject insulin or a medicine called gliptins, they’ll show you how to do it.

Side effects

Your diabetes medicine may cause side effects. These can include:

  • bloating and diarrhoea
  • weight loss or weight gain
  • feeling sick
  • swollen ankles

Not everyone has side effects.

If you feel unwell after taking medicine or notice any side effects, speak to your GP or diabetes nurse. Don’t stop taking medication without advice.

How to get free prescriptions for diabetes medication

You’re entitled to free prescriptions for your diabetes medication.

To claim your free prescriptions you’ll need to apply for an exemption certificate. To do this:

  • fill in a form at your GP surgery
  • you should get the certificate in the post about a week later (it will last 5 years)
  • take it to your pharmacy with your prescriptions

Save your receipts if you have to pay for diabetes medication before you receive your exemption certificate so you can claim money back.

Travelling with diabetes medicines

If you’re going on holiday:

  • pack extra medicine - speak to your diabetes nurse about how much
  • carry your medicine in your hand luggage in case your checked-in bags go missing or are damaged
  • if you’re flying with a medicine you inject, get a letter from your GP that says you need it to treat diabetes

Call 111

If you can’t speak to your GP or don’t know what to do next.

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