Sulfonylureas: Stimulating Insulin

Sulfonylureas were the only blood-glucose-lowering pills around for a several decades. If they didn't control blood glucose, the next step was insulin. Today, sulfonylureas in newer and more potent formulations continue to help people control their blood glucose by helping the pancreas produce more insulin. Learn how this category of pills works.



Sulfonylureas are the oldest oral blood-glucose-lowering medication and were the only pill around for more than 40 years. They were introduced in the 1950s and remain popular, though less frequently prescribed due to the greater number of choices. Their main function is simple -- to help your pancreas produce more insulin.

How It Works

As type 2 diabetes develops, one problem you have is that even though your pancreas works overtime, it becomes unable to keep up with the large demand for insulin. Without adequate insulin, your body cannot process foods properly and keep your blood glucose in control. So your blood glucose rises.

Sulfonylureas increase the supply of insulin to help lower blood glucose levels. These drugs may help reduce fasting blood glucose by about 50 to 60 milligrams per deciliter. This can translate to a 1.5 to 1.7 point reduction in your A1C (the test doctors use to measure average blood glucose over several months). Sulfonylureas are available in short-acting forms and long-acting forms. Long-acting versions typically are taken just once a day, while short-acting forms will probably be taken twice daily.