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August 5, 2022

Medications for Prediabetes

In most cases, people diagnosed with prediabetes do not need to take medication to treat the condition. Exercise, following a reduced carbohydrate or calorie diet can treat prediabetes.

Keeping active and eating healthily will contribute to weight loss, which will help your blood glucose levels return to normal.

Following your prediabetes diagnosis, certain factors might mean you are prescribed medication as part of your treatment, including:

  • Being obese or having a high body mass index (BMI).
  • Having low levels of HDL or “good” cholesterol.
  • Being diagnosed with prediabetes at a young age.
  • Having a close family member already living with diabetes.

Alongside taking any prescribed medication, you should still participate in a healthy lifestyle to have the strongest chance of taking control of your blood sugar levels.

Prediabetes medications


Belonging to a group of drugs known as biguanides, metformin is typically prescribed as an oral antidiabetic medication for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.

You may have heard of one of the tradenames the drug is sold under, such as Glucophage, Riomet, Fortamet, Glumetza, Obimet, Dianbe, Diabex, and Diaformi.

Metformin is also available in two forms:

  • Metformin IR (immediate-release) – taken up to three times a day
  • Metformin SR (slow release) – usually taken once per day

There are a couple of different ways metformin can help your body control its blood sugar levels:

  • The drug can help your body respond better to the insulin that it produces.
  • It lowers the amount of sugar or glucose created by your liver that is usually released in your body, damaging your organs.

Metformin side effects

As with most medications, you may have some side effects from taking metformin.

People often report having diarrhoea from taking the immediate release version of the drug. Although this typically passes, you should let your healthcare professional know of any discomfort you are having as a side effect of taking metformin – they may be able to prescribe the slow-release alternative.

Other common symptoms of metformin are:

  • Disturbance to the gut
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite


Also known as glitazones, thiazolidinediones are a type of oral antidiabetic drugs that are used to treat people with type 2 diabetes.

The drug reduces the body’s resistance to insulin and protects the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. Alongside this, they also help to lower your blood pressure and increase levels of HDL or “good” cholesterol.

At the moment, the drug is only available in the UK under the brand name Actos, after a European ban on Avandia.

In more recent years, the drug has been scrutinised after studies linking its use with bladder cancer.

Thiazolidinediones side effects

The side effects of taking thiazolidinediones include:

  • Anaemia
  • Backpain
  • Blurred vision
  • Chest pain
  • Cold symptoms such as a blocked nose, sneezing, cough or sore throat
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Fluid retention
  • Headache
  • Increased hunger or thirst
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle soreness
  • Nausea
  • Painful urination, urinating more than usual, or bloody urine
  • Respiratory tract infection
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sinusitis
  • Vision problems

Links between long-term use of Actos and a number of serious health complications have been identified, such as heart failure, bone fractures and bladder cancer.

Should drugs be used to treat prediabetes?

Metformin is currently the only drug recommended by the ADA as an effective treatment for prediabetes.

However, most people can treat their prediabetes by adopting a lifestyle involving regularly activity and a healthy diet. In fact, evidence shows it can be effectively put into remission.

Following a diet low in carbohydrates has been clinically proven to help stabilise blood sugars and put prediabetes and type 2 diabetes into remission.

While making and sustaining significant lifestyle changes can be difficult, the Low Carb Program is an award-winning NHS-approved app that can support your transition to a low-carbohydrate diet.

Rooted behavioural change technology, the program has helped members lose an average of 7% of their body weight, reduce the amount of medication they need to take, and more importantly, lower their blood glucose to the recommended levels.




Join 470,000 people using the Low Carb Program
Members with prediabetes achieve weight loss, improved HbA1c, reduced medications and prediabetes remission.

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