Home Health Diabetes

Diabetes Drugs: Benefits, Risks & Legal Concerns

For the estimated 38.4 million Americans living with diabetes, managing the disease often includes using various medications and devices to greatly improve their quality of life. However, these treatments come with risks of potential side effects and have been subject to significant legal scrutiny because of adverse reactions.

Last Modified: May 10, 2024
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Diabetes Overview

Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects blood sugar control. It occurs when the body can’t produce enough insulin or can’t use it properly. In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas stops making insulin. In Type 2 diabetes, the body’s cells become insulin-resistant.

Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to other health problems, such as kidney damage, stroke, vision loss, heart disease and lower limb amputations.

Key Diabetes Statistics
  • Diabetes is the eighth leading cause of death in the U.S.
  • Roughly 8.5 million Americans rely on insulin to survive.
  • One in five American adults don’t know they have diabetes.

Luckily for the estimated 38.4 million Americans with diabetes, there are drug and device treatment options. However, they aren’t without side effects — and some have faced legal action from the patients who used them.

Types of Diabetes

There are three types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2 and gestational diabetes. Type 1 is an autoimmune disease while Type 2 is lifestyle-related, and gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy.

Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune response that stops insulin production. Only 10% of diabetics have Type 1, which is diagnosed mostly in children and young adults. Approximately 2 million Americans have Type 1 diabetes.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes affects 90-95% of people with diabetes. In Type 2 diabetes, cells don't respond to insulin's effects, causing sugar to remain in the bloodstream and causing damage to the body.
Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetes, which affects women during pregnancy and disappears after delivery, increases the risk of pregnancy complications and Type 2 diabetes for both mother and child later in life.

Diabetes risk increases with age. Prediabetes is a condition where blood sugar levels are higher than usual. It can lead to Type 2 diabetes and increase the risk of stroke and heart disease. Lifestyle changes such as losing weight and exercising more can prevent a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis for most people with prediabetes.

Diabetes Symptoms and Treatment

Blood sugar imbalances cause diabetes symptoms, such as fatigue, vision problems, increased hunger, weight changes, frequent urination and thirst. Type 1 diabetes symptoms are severe and fast, whereas Type 2 diabetes has a gradual onset. Regular checkups and bloodwork can detect Type 2 diabetes early on.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes in the U.S.

Nutritionist Rebecca Montrone discusses symptoms her patients with Type 2 diabetes have described.

Diabetes treatment involves lifestyle changes and medications. Type 2 diabetes may require a combination of medications and insulin as the disease progresses.

Type 1 vs. Type 2 Diabetes Medications

Diabetes treatments vary significantly between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and include a range of medications and devices designed to manage blood sugar levels. While Type 1 diabetes primarily requires insulin therapy, Type 2 can be managed with lifestyle changes, oral medications and insulin.

Syringes, pens and wearable devices like insulin pumps help to administer insulin. Four types of insulin are available for diabetes patients: rapid-, short-, intermediate- and long-acting.

Types of Insulin Available in the U.S.
Type of InsulinBrand NameOnset of Insulin's EffectsDuration of Dose
Rapid-actingHumalog Novolog Apidra10 to 30 minutes (usually taken just before eating)3 to 5 hours
Short-actingRegular (R)30 minutes to 1 hour (usually taken 30 minutes prior to a meal)Up to 12 hours
Intermediate-actingNPH (N)1.5 to 4 hoursUp to 24 hours (but usually taken twice a day)
Long-actingBasaglar Lantus Levemir ToujeoAbout 45 minutes to 4 hoursUp to 24 hours
Ultra long-actingTresiba1 hour42 hours or more

Insulin is safe if used as directed, but it can cause hypoglycemia as a side effect.

Type 2 Diabetes Medications

Patients may take Type 2 diabetes medication to control blood orally or by injection; the type and dosage will vary depending on severity and other conditions. In combination therapy, patients may use multiple medications at one time.

Most Common Types of Type 2 Diabetes Medications
  • GLP-1 and Dual GLP-1/GIP Receptor Agonists
  • SGLT2 Inhibitors
  • Metformin
  • DPP-4 Inhibitors
  • Thiazolidinediones (TZDs)
  • Sulfonylureas
  • Alpha-Glucosidase Inhibitors
  • Meglitinides

Some Type 2 diabetes medications may cause serious side effects. For example, rare but serious Ozempic and Mounjaro side effects may include gastroparesis, or paralyzed stomach. Gastroparesis causes undigested food to remain in the stomach, causing severe vomiting that may last for weeks and severe abdominal pain. Some patients filed Ozempic lawsuits against the drug’s maker claiming they were never warned of the risk.

Doctors may switch medications periodically depending on how a patient reacts to a medication. It’s important to have routine checkups with your medical provider to see if your medications are working and to discuss any side effects.

GLP-1 and dual GLP-1/GIP receptor agonists are drugs that aid glucose management in Type 2 diabetes. They lower blood glucose and body weight, potentially benefiting heart health.

Most are injections, but Rybelsus (semaglutide) is a daily oral option. They also curb appetite and promote weight loss. Different brands are FDA-approved for either the treatment of Type 2 diabetes or weight loss.

Common Types of GLP-1 and Dual GLP-1/GIP RA Drugs
  • Dulaglutide (Trulicity)
  • Exenatide (Byetta, Bydureon, Bydureon BCise)
  • Liraglutide (Victoza, Saxenda)
  • Liraglutide and insulin degludec (Xultophy)
  • Lixisenatide (Adlyxin)
  • Lixisenatide and insulin glargine (Soliqua)
  • Semaglutide (Ozempic, Rybelsus, Wegovy)
  • Tirzepatide (Mounjaro, Zepbound)


In two clinical trials involving people with Type 2 diabetes, treatment with the GLP-1 receptor agonist was associated with better glycemic control, reduced oral hypoglycemic agents and reduced systolic blood pressure.

Side Effects

GLP-1-based therapies for diabetes can cause gastrointestinal side effects like nausea, vomiting and diarrhea in 10 to 50% of patients. In clinical trials, these side effects were similar to previous studies, with a three- to sixfold increase in gastrointestinal side effects.


Without insurance, Wegovy can cost as much as $13,600 a year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. But with insurance and discounts from the drugs’ manufacturers, some can cost as little as $25 a month.


Patients taking GLP-1 receptor agonists have filed lawsuits after experiencing severe gastrointestinal side effects. The main side effect claimed in Ozempic lawsuits is gastroparesis, a paralyzed stomach. If you have had severe side effects or if someone you love died after taking a GLP-1 like Ozempic, lawyers are actively taking cases.

Lawsuits are being filed by people who developed severe gastroparesis after using semaglutide drugs such as Ozempic and Wegovy.
View lawsuits

SGLT2 Inhibitors

SGLT2 inhibitors, or gliflozins, treat Type 2 diabetes while benefiting heart and kidney health. Blocking glucose reabsorption in the kidneys lowers blood sugar, aids weight loss and reduces blood pressure.

Common Types of SGLT2 Inhibitors
  • Bexaflifloxin (Brenzavvy)
  • Canagliflozin (Invokana)
  • Dapagliflozin (Farxiga)
  • Empagliflozin (Jardiance)
  • Ertugliflozin (Steglatro)


An article published in the International Journal of Molecular Science suggests that SGLT2 inhibitors offer health benefits beyond glycemic control. These benefits include weight loss, protection against major cardiovascular events, blood pressure reduction, and delaying the progression of chronic kidney disease (CKD).

Side Effects

Common side effects of SGLT2 inhibitors include urinary tract and yeast infections, diabetic ketoacidosis, low blood sugar and blood pressure, according to the American Kidney Fund.


GoodRx reports that several SGLT2 inhibitors run about $350 to $594 per month. They are expensive, but still more affordable than GLP-1 agonists.


Plaintiffs in SGLT2 inhibitor lawsuits say manufacturers “negligently, recklessly and carelessly marketed, distributed and sold [each drug] without adequate instructions or warning of its serious side effects and unreasonably dangerous risks.” Federal litigation is ongoing for those affected by Invokana’s and Farxiga’s severe side effects.


Metformin may be used alone or with insulin. It helps manage Type 2 diabetes by reducing liver glucose and increasing muscle insulin sensitivity. Metformin is taken twice daily, and it may cause diarrhea. It is available in an extended-release formulation that may be taken once daily if tolerated. It is not for Type 1 diabetes.


Metformin offers various advantages, such as weight loss, lowered blood pressure and cholesterol, reduced risk of heart disease, and effective management of Type 2 diabetes. Its ability to regulate blood sugar levels benefits individuals with different health concerns.

Side Effects

Metformin can cause side effects like diarrhea, nausea, stomach discomfort and gas. Other symptoms include weakness, headache, rash and muscle pain. Serious effects such as rapid breathing or muscle pain should prompt immediate medical attention.


Without insurance, generic metformin ranges in price from $4 to about $15, according to GoodRx.


Plaintiffs have alleged that their metformin use led to cancer. Some lawyers are accepting metformin lawsuits from patients who developed cancer after taking the diabetes drug.

Onglyzya & Other DPP-4 Inhibitors

Dipeptidyl peptidase-4 — or DPP-4 — inhibitors can help control Type 2 diabetes by stimulating insulin release. These drugs block an enzyme called DPP-4, which breaks down a hormone called incretin. By blocking DPP-4, these medications can help keep blood sugar levels stable and reduce complications from diabetes.

Common Types of DPP-4 Inhibitors in the U.S.
  • Alogliptin (Nesina)
  • Linagliptin (Tradjenta, Jentadueto)
  • Saxagliptin (Onglyza)
  • Sitagliptin (Januvia)


DPP-4s are a safer type of pill for diabetes that can lower blood sugar levels without causing weight gain. They don’t require injections and have a low risk of causing low blood sugar, but should be used with caution when taken with other medications.

Side Effects

DPP-4 inhibitors may cause some side effects, such as headaches, sore throats and upper respiratory infections. Serious side effects are rare but can include pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) and joint pain. If you experience severe symptoms, it’s always best to consult with a doctor.


DPP-4s are among the more expensive diabetes drugs. Conversely, drugs like sulfonylureas and metformin are more affordable. However, the cost of DPP-4s can vary greatly — from $75 for Onglyza to $1,575 for Zituvio if you don’t have insurance.


Lawsuits against Boehringer Ingelheim, the manufacturer of both Tradjenta and Jentadueto, claim the company did not adequately warn patients about the risk of pancreatic side effects.

Avandia, Actos & Other TZDs

Thiazolidinediones (TZDs) improve insulin function in muscle and fat, reducing liver glucose production. They lower blood sugar without risking low blood glucose but may increase heart failure risk and cause leg swelling. TZDs treat insulin resistance, improving cardiovascular risk factors, despite safety concerns.

Common Types of TZDs


TZDs may benefit Type 2 diabetes patients unable to tolerate or find success with other medications such as metformin, sulphonylureas or prandial glucose regulators. TZDs can also be an alternative option for individuals concerned about weight gain or in need of improved lipid metabolism.

Side Effects

TZDs may cause eyesight issues, infections, reduced touch sensitivity, chest pain, water retention and weight gain. Less common but serious effects include anemia, bone fractures, heart issues, liver failure and macular edema. These drugs can affect how genes work, leading to different side effects for each drug.


Actos can cost as little as $23 without insurance, according to GoodRx. Avandia can be purchased for $170. Insurance coverage can vary, so check with your pharmacist or your insurer for the exact amount of your coverage.


Today, litigation is mostly inactive. However, more than 10,000 Actos lawsuits accused manufacturer Takeda Pharmaceuticals of failing to adequately warn patients of the risks of bladder cancer, heart failure and other serious side effects.


Sulfonylureas such as glipizide and glyburide have been a key treatment option for Type 2 diabetes for nearly 60 years. They lower blood sugar levels and are affordable, available in generic forms.

Common Types of Sulfonylureas
  • Glimepiride (Amaryl)
  • Glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase)
  • Glipizide (Glucotrol)


Sulfonylureas are well-suited for non-overweight individuals with Type 2 diabetes. They stimulate pancreas cells to produce more insulin and enhance insulin effectiveness. However, taken once or twice daily with meals may not be suitable for those prone to weight gain.

Side Effects

Sulfonylureas may cause various side effects, including blurred vision, increased hunger, joint pain, muscle cramps, nausea, sweating and unusual weakness. Rare but serious effects include abdominal pain, difficulty breathing, fainting, irregular heartbeat, rash, and yellowing of the skin or eyes. Consult a doctor if experiencing these symptoms.


Sulfonylureas are relatively affordable compared to many other diabetes medications. Without insurance, sulfonylureas range in price from as little as $14 for Glynase to $22 for Glucotrol XL.

Other Rarely Used Diabetes Medications

Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors (ACIs) treat Type 2 diabetes by delaying carbohydrate absorption and reducing postprandial blood glucose levels. They are prescribed when blood sugar spikes after meals or other medications fail to control glucose levels.

Common Types of Alpha-Glucosidase Inhibitors:
  • Acarbose (Precose)
  • Miglitol (Glyset)

Meglitinides are oral medications that help manage Type 2 diabetes by stimulating insulin release from the pancreas after meals. They are particularly useful for people with irregular meal schedules.

Common Types of Meglitinides
  • Repaglinide (Prandin)
  • Nateglinide (Starlix)


AGIs are useful for people with Type 2 diabetes who experience high blood sugar levels after meals. They work by slowing down the breakdown of carbohydrates in the intestine, which helps to regulate glucose levels. Meglitinides, such as nateglinide and repaglinide, are suitable for individuals who need insulin stimulation before meals to manage their glucose levels.

Side Effects

Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors may cause gastrointestinal discomfort, such as flatulence and diarrhea, which often diminish over time. They can be taken without significant risk of hypoglycemia. Still, they may lead to digestive issues like passing gas, upset stomach, and belly pain. Meglitinides might induce common side effects, including anxiety, blurred vision, body aches, nausea and vomiting, but these usually diminish with treatment.


The cost of meglitinides ranges from $19 to $85 without insurance, according to GoodRx — with repaglinide being the less expensive option. Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors range in price from $17 to $43, with acarbose being the less expensive option.

Please seek the advice of a medical professional before making health care decisions.