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Drug Facts: Sulfonylureas

Updated: Jan 9, 2021

The drug class known as sulfonylureas includes glyburide, glipizide and glimepiride. These diabetes drugs have been around a long time. They are generally inexpensive, which is helpful as many diabetes medications can be quite pricey.


Sulfonylureas are generally taken 1-2 times a day before meals. They work by forcing the pancreas to make more insulin to lower blood sugars.

Whenever I meet with someone on these drugs, one of the first questions I ask is if they ever experience hypoglycemia, or low blood sugars. We want your blood sugars to be low, but not TOO low. Make sure to take them before meals as prescribed. If you take them without food, you are potentially setting yourself up for hypoglycemia. If you don’t have a glucometer, ask your doctor for one and well as a script for needles and test strips. This way if you think your blood sugars are low, you can test to double check. A reading less than 70 is concerning and should be treated so it doesn't go any lower. Having safe blood sugar readings is very possible on these drugs, just make sure your provider is in the know about any low blood sugars readings you’re having so your dose can be adjusted if necessary.

Besides hypoglycemia, another disadvantage of these drugs is that they can cause weight gain. The amount of weight gain can vary greatly from person to person. Weight loss is still possible while taking these medications, it may just take a little extra effort.

These drugs start working immediately and the full benefit of the drug will be seen in about a week.



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