Diabetes is expensive, there’s no denying that fact. Between doctor visits, healthy eating, dieticians, test strips and medications, people with diabetes can spend a lot of money to remain healthy.

Of all of those expenses, medications more than likely top the list as the one thing we spend most of our money on with diabetes. With the changing landscape of health care costs it’s important to make smart choices. What are the options for oral diabetes medications and how do they stack up? Consumer Reports did some research for us in this area.

There are 6 types of oral diabetes medications and 12 specific drugs available, each of which works in a different way. It’s important to work with your doctor to find the right combination of medications that will work best in your situation. Arming yourself with information prior to speaking with your doctor is in your best interest. Here are the basics of how each type of drug works:

· Sulfonylureas, like Glipizide and Glimepiride, help the pancreas to secrete more insulin.

· Biguanides, like Metformin, help to keep the liver from secreting too much glucose and reduce insulin resistance.

· Thiazolidinediones drugs also decrease insulin resistance (Avandia and Actos).

· Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors, like acarbose and miglitol, slow the digestion of carbohydrates.

· DPP-inhibitors (Januvia and Onglyza), work by promoting the release of insulin after eating.

Consumer Reports rated oral diabetes medications based on cost and effectiveness. The information on effectiveness was taken from scientific analysis done by the Johns Hopkins University-evidence based Practice Center, along with the Oregon Health and Science University-based Drug Effectiveness Review Project. And prices were compared at different pharmacies.

The report shows that newer drugs aren't necessarily more effective, but they are definitely more expensive. DPP-inhibitors (Januvia and Onglyza) are fairly new on the market and can cost as much as much as $275 per month (without insurance). They are found to be less effective at reducing blood glucose than drugs that have been on the market for years like biguanides (Metformin) or sulfonylureas (Glipizide and Glimepiride), which can be purchased for as low as $4 per month.

All medications come with side effects. Some are worse than others. Consumer Reports says that the newer, more expensive drugs are no safer than ones like Metformin. The longer a drug has been on the market, the surer you can be of what side effects you may encounter.

Your doctor is the person you should trust to pick the medication that will be best for your diabetes and other health concerns. Attention should be paid to serious side effects that have occurred with some medications. Consumer Reports recommends, based on their research, that Metformin, Glipizide and Glimepiride have the best bang for your buck. They are proven to be effective without huge price tags. You can read the whole report ​here or a summarized version ​here.

To learn more on this topic:
The Cost of Healthy Living — Food Prices and Type 2 Diabetes
Stressed about Healthcare Costs? Tips to Help You Make Good Choices
Is a Healthier Diet More Expensive?