Type 2 diabetes is debilitating for many, ushering in a world of needles, side effects and medications. Since insulin resistance causes excess glucose to build up in your blood, most diabetes medications combat this issue. The most popular type 2 diabetes drugs are Invokana® (canagliflozin), Metformin (Glucophage) and Actos (pioglitazone). Each medication uses a different mechanism to help regulate blood sugar. However, some blood sugar drugs have serious side effects that worsen over time. Among Metformin, Invokana and Actos, which type 2 diabetes drug is right for you?
Type 2 Diabetes Drug Overview
There are many different type 2 diabetes medications, but these three are the most popular and commonly prescribed.
Drug #1: Metformin
New American College of Physicians (ACP) guidelines recommend Metformin for managing diabetes symptoms. This endorsement’s backed by data from the latest diabetes studies. The ACP also recommends combining Metformin with other drugs to manage type 2 diabetes, if necessary. “Metformin, unless contraindicated, is an effective treatment strategy because it has better effectiveness, is associated with fewer adverse effects, and is cheaper than most other oral medications,” said ACP president Dr. Nitin Damle.
Dr. Damle adds that while U.S. obesity rates escalate, so too does type 2 diabetes prevalence. “Metformin has the added benefit of being associated with weight loss,” explains Dr. Damle. Metformin comes highly recommended by physicians nationwide and is the cheapest, most effective type 2 diabetes drug available.
Drug #2: Invokana
Invokana works with your kidneys to help you eliminate excess blood sugar through urination. This helps decrease blood sugar levels without increasing your likelihood of gaining weight, provided you’re getting proper nutrition and exercise. One Invokana benefit is its higher association with hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) than other diabetes drugs. Unfortunately, Invokana also has potentially serious side effects that patients should consider before taking it. Clinical trials show that Invokana decreases aGFR, a kidney functionality marker.
Lower aGFR can also lead to serious health complications, including:
- Ketoacidosis. This life-threatening condition occurs whenever your body doesn’t make enough insulin. Without sufficient insulin, patients risk dangerously high ketone levels and elevated blood sugar. It affects normal internal organ function, like your liver and kidneys, and must be treated in a hospital. Without prompt treatment, you might slip into a coma or die.
- Kidney problems. Your kidneys filter waste products out of your bloodstream. This process helps maintain healthy blood sugar and fluid balance. If Invokana damages your kidneys, it can make waste products build up within your blood.
- Severe urinary tract infections. Invokana helps your kidneys release excess blood sugar through urine passing through your bladder. All that extra sugar in your urine increases your serious urinary tract infection risk. Worse, a severe UTI can spread and damage your kidneys.
Drug #3: Actos
Actos is yet another popular type 2 diabetes medication that decreases insulin resistance. Also known as pioglitazone, this drug helps decrease glucose that’s made in your liver. Actos promotes disposal of excess blood sugar in addition to making cells more sensitive to insulin, so you’ll need less. However, Actos costs more than both Invokana and Metformin. Actos long-term use may also cause life-threatening health conditions.
Here are just a few severe Actos side effects:
- Congestive heart failure. Several years back, released a black box warning about fluid retention which may “exacerbate or lead to heart failure.”
- Bladder cancer. A 2012 study revealed that diabetics taking Actos for prolonged periods have an 83% higher risk of developing bladder cancer. As a result, the FDA ordered the medication’s manufacturer to conduct further research on the link between Actos and cancer.
Why Metformin, Invokana and Actos are Sometimes Combined
Physicians often feel a patient can benefit from combining blood sugar medications. Type 2 diabetics frequently take Metformin, since it’s the most effective and least expensive medication for controlling blood sugar. Additionally, Metformin famously has the fewest side effects. Metformin improves your body’s insulin sensitivity. You can combine Metformin with Actos or Invokana for additional benefits, since they don’t use identical mechanisms.
Invokana belongs to the newest class of diabetes drugs known as SGLT2 inhibitors. While these drugs can effectively regulate blood sugar, any complications from long-term SGLT2 inhibitor use remain largely unknown. Invokana can cause the above side effects as well as hypotension and increased urination. As a result, doctors advise Invokana patients to always stay well-hydrated.
Actos belongs to the thiazolidinediones drug class, which lowers insulin resistance. Unfortunately, thiazolidinediones like Actos can cause weight gain as well as other serious side effects.
What To Do If You Suffer Serious Side Effects with Type 2 Diabetes Drugs
Some Invokana and Actos patients report severe health complications requiring surgery or other expensive treatment procedures. Still others resulted in death. Patients who weren’t informed about these potential risks are now filing lawsuits against the manufacturers of Actos and Invokana. If you or a loved one suffered severe health complications after taking Actos or Invokana, you may have a case. Fill out your free claim review form and see if you may be eligible for financial compensation.
Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as Match.com, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity, Mail.com, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.