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Diabetes Medications: Common Side Effects

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If have been recently prescribed a type 2 diabetes medicine by your doctor, or if you already get prescription diabetes medicine online from ZOOM Pharmacy or other online pharmacies – you may be wondering about common side effects.

Like all medicines, type 2 diabetes medications can have unwanted side-effects. Some are mild, but some can be serious. The side effects you may experience will depend on the specific medication, or combination of medications, you are taking.

Some side effects might last only a short time until your body gets used to the medication. Some may stop if your dose is lowered. In some cases your doctor may stop the medication and prescribe an alternative.

It is very important to talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you experience any troublesome or painful side effects.

And of course, as with all prescription medications, it is vital to take diabetes medicines as directed by your doctor. It is also important to maintain the diet and exercise regime prescribed by your doctor.

What does ‘common’ mean when talking about side effects?

  • Very common side effects are those that affect 1 in 10 patients or more (>=10%)
  • Common side effects are those that affect from 1 in 100 to less than 1 in 10 people (>=1% to <10%)

Common side effects of type 2 diabetes medicines

Here are some of the common (and very common) side effects of the type 2 diabetes medications most often prescribed in New Zealand.

Please note: this list does not include all side effects of diabetes medications or the different side effects when you take more than one type of diabetes medication.

Low blood glucose levels (hypoglycaemia)

Some diabetes medicines may cause your blood glucose levels (or blood sugar levels) to drop below a safe level. This is called hypoglycaemia.

Hypoglycaemia can be very common for people taking the following medications

  • Insulin
  • Sulphonylurea tablets – Gliclazide (Glizide), Glipizide (Minidiab), Glibenclamide (Daonil)

Whilst hypoglycaemia can be mild to moderate, it can also be serious, and even life-threatening, if not treated. So, you and your whānau need to be aware of the symptoms and what to do in case of an episode.

Some symptoms of hypoglycaemia can be feeling shaky, sweaty, dizzy, irritable or confused. You may get a headache or blurred vision. You can read more about other symptoms and treatment of hypoglycaemia at Diabetes NZ and on Health Navigator.

Diabetes medications and gastro-intestinal side effects

Gastro-intestinal symptoms are common with the following type 2 diabetes drugs:

Metformin: Diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite are very common side effects of Metformin, especially at the beginning of treatment. If these symptoms do not go away, or they come back, you should tell your doctor or pharmacist.

Acarbose (Glucobay): Flatulence (wind/gas and bloating) is a very common side effect of Glucobay. Diarrhoea, stomach or gastro pain are common side effects.

Sulphonylurea tablets: Nausea, vomiting, a feeling of fullness or pressure in the stomach area, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, heartburn, constipation, dyspepsia, and diarrhoea are common side effects of patients on sulphonylurea tablets.

Other common diabetes medication side effects

  • Skin reactions
  • Weight gain (sulphonylureas)
  • Dizziness
  • Metallic taste in the mouth (Metformin)
  • Genital infections, urinary tract infections (UTIs), frequent urination (SGLT2 inhibitors)
  • Back pain (SGLT2 inhibitors)

Whilst these are common side effects, please remember that not all patients will experience them.

Diabetes medication is a vital part of managing your condition. Your doctor has weighed up the benefits you might gain against the risks of side-effects.

Where can I find out more about my diabetes medicine and its side effects?

  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist – they will take into account the interactions of all your medications
  • Look for the Consumer Medicine Information Sheet (CMI) on the MEDSAFE website. Simply type the name of your medicine in the first box and press search. Then press on the medication name labelled with “CMI”. The CMI sheet will have a section titled “Side Effects”
  • Visit Health Navigator
  • You can also talk to one of our friendly ZOOM pharmacists on FreePhone 0508 966 622. Our friendly, trained pharmacists are available Monday to Friday 8.30am – 5.30pm to answer your questions. All conversations are confidential and will be specific to you.  You don’t have to be an existing ZOOM customer to call us. You can also email us.


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How to send your prescription

  • Use your patient portal
  • OR tell your medical centre to send it
  • OR freepost / courier it yourself
  • OR take a photo and securely upload your prescription by using the form below

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Find out more here or FreePhone 0508966622







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