Some people with diabetes take several medications each day - and the cost of these drugs can really add up. That’s why many diabetics turn to generic diabetes medications to save on their health care costs. What types of generic diabetes medications are available, and are they as effective as branded medications?
The FDA dictates that generic diabetes medications be of the same strength as the branded drug, and it must be available in the same form. They’re also subject to strict quality control and safety measures. So when you buy a generic diabetes medication, it should be of similar quality to the more expensive branded medication. What are the most common generic diabetes medications currently available?
Glipizide is the generic form of Glucotrol and Glucotrol XL. These generic medications are in the class of drugs called sulfonylureas, one of the oldest classes of diabetes medications in existence that are still widely used - because they work. They lower blood sugars by stimulating the beta-cells of the pancreas to secrete more insulin.
If your doctor prescribed Micronase, Glynase or Diabeta, and you’re looking for a generic equivalent, glyburide is an option available at most pharmacies. Like glipizide, glyburide falls into the sulfonylurea class of diabetes medications, which work by stimulating insulin secretion.
Other Generic Sulfonylureas
Two other sulfonylureas come in a generic form, tolazamide, the non-branded form of Tolinase, and acetohexamide, an older sulfonylurea that’s not widely used because it interacts with other drugs. Glimepiride is another sulfonylurea that’s the generic equivalent of Amaryl. These medications all increase the secretion of insulin by the pancreas.
Generics for Glucophage and Glycophage XR
These two medications are available as the generic drug metformin. Metformin is also combined with other generic diabetes medications such as glipizide and glyburide as a single pill. Metformin lowers blood sugars by increasing insulin sensitivity and by preventing the production of glucose from amino acids by the liver, a process called gluconeogenesis.
Miglitol and Acarbose
Miglitol and acarbose are the generic equivalent of Glyset and Precose. These diabetes medications work by reducing absorption of carbohydrates from the digestive tract. They help to lower blood sugar levels without directly affecting the pancreas.
Not All Diabetes Medications are Available as a Generic
Some diabetes medications aren’t available in generic form. One such class of medications are the thiazolidinediones, which includes the medications Actos and Avandia. These drugs aren’t widely used since studies show they increase the risk of heart attack.
Another new class of diabetes medications called DPP-4 inhibitors, which enhance the body’s natural release of insulin, is too new to be available in a generic form. The branded drug, Januvia, is readily available - but costly.
Another class of diabetes medications called GLP-1 agonists are also not available as generic medications. This class of drugs lowers levels of a hormone that causes the liver to produce glucose while enhancing insulin production. The most widely used branded form of this drug is Byetta.
Generic Diabetes Medications: The Bottom Line?
Some, but not all, of the more commonly used diabetes medications are available in generic form, and it’s likely that other diabetes medications will become available as generics once their patents expire – at a considerable savings.
Physician’s Desk Reference. 2010.