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Meglitinides

Meglitinides are a class of medications that work similarly to sulfonylureas and are used to treat type 2 diabetes. They reduce blood sugar levels by increasing insulin production by the pancreas. Meglitinides are fast-acting and dissipate quickly so they often must be taken several times a day. Individuals taking one of these medications can expect to see their A1c level drop by about one point, according to data compiled by the federal Agency on Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

Who should use a meglitinide?

A meglitinide may be appropriate for type 2 diabetes patients who have been unable to control their blood glucose levels through diet or exercise alone. Since the drug works quickly, it can be a good choice for those who do not eat their meals on a regular schedule. Individuals with liver or kidney problems may not be able to take some forms of meglitinide. In addition, it is unknown whether the drug is safe during pregnancy. Women who are pregnant or who plan to get pregnant should speak with a health care provider before taking a meglitinide.

Medications in the meglitinide class

Currently, there are two forms of meglitinide available. They are only available as the following brand name prescriptions:

  • Prandin (repaglinide)
  • Starlix (nateglinide)

Type 2 diabetes patients may also take meglitinide as a combination drug. Sold under the brand name Prandimet, this medicine combines repaglinide with metformin, a diabetes drug that stops the liver from producing excess sugar.

Common side effects and dosages of meglitinides

The most common side effect of meglitinides is low blood sugar. Since this class of drugs works very quickly, it is important to take it immediately before or during a meal. Using a meglitinide without eating can put a patient at risk of an unsafe drop in blood glucose. The AHRQ also reports meglitinides may cause weight gain.

Meglitinides are typically taken as a pill with each meal and are most effective within 30 minutes to an hour. However, their effect may last as long as three hours.

IMPORTANT: To ensure their safety, individuals with type 2 diabetes should discuss their treatment plans with a health care professional before taking a meglitinide or any other medication.

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About Maryalene LaPonsie

As a constituent case manager in the Michigan Legislature, Maryalene LaPonsie spent 13 years helping individuals address concerns regarding Medicaid eligibility, medical insurance claims and government regulations. Today, she reports on a variety of issues including health insurance, health reform and affordable health care options. Maryalene holds a bachelor's degree in political science from Western Michigan University.

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