Insulin Releasing Pills (Secretagogues)

bottle of pills

Secretagogues stimulate the beta cell to secrete insulin.

Secretagogues, such as sulfonylureas and glinides, increase insulin secretion from the pancreas.

Secretagogues are medicines that stimulate the beta cell to secrete insulin. Secretagogues include the sulfonylureas and glinides. 


The sulfonylureas (SFUs) were among the first oral medicines available to treat type 2 diabetes. They have been available since the late 1950’s. Glyburide, glipizide and glimepiride are examples of some of the more commonly used sulfonylureas. This group of medicines lowers your blood sugar by stimulating beta cells to make more insulin. The SFUs are generally taken once or twice daily. For these medicines to work, your pancreas must have beta cells that work.

Part of the natural progression of type 2 diabetes is a reduction in the beta cells’ ability to make insulin. So over time, SFUs may not work as well and additional therapy will be necessary to maintain good sugar control.


Another type of insulin releasing medicine (Secretatogues) are the Glinides (repaglinide and nateglinide). These medicines work the same way as SFUs—they also stimulate the beta cells to make more insulin. The difference is they don’t work as long as most of the SFUs and are taken right before eating (up to 30 minutes before each meal).

The main side effects of insulin releasing pills (Secretagogues) (SFUs and glinides) are low blood sugars (hypoglycemia) and weight gain. If you have liver or kidney problems, you may not be able to take these medicines.

In short, insulin secretagogues increase insulin secretion from the pancreas.

The most common side effects of insulin secretagogues are:

For more information about insulin secretagogue pill strength (formulations), initial and final doses, side effects, and different insulin secretagogues containing preparations on the market, see our Medications Table.

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