Something old, something new and something very old: drugs for treating type 2 diabetes

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Diabetes mellitus belongs to the most rapidly increasing diseases worldwide. Approximately 90–95% of these patients suffer from type 2 diabetes mellitus, which is characterized by peripheral insulin resistance and the progressive loss of beta-cell function and mass. Considering the complications of this chronic disease, a reliable anti-diabetic treatment is indispensable. An ideal oral anti-diabetic drug should not only correct glucose homeostasis but also preserve or even augment beta-cell function and mass, ameliorate the subclinical inflammation present under insulin-resistant conditions and prevent the macro- and microvascular consequences of diabetes in order to reduce the mortality. Despite the many anti-diabetic drugs already in use, there is an ongoing research for additional drugs, guided by different concepts of the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes. This review will briefly summarize current oral anti-diabetic drugs. In addition, emerging strategies for the treatment of diabetes will be described, among them the inhibition of glucagon action and anti-inflammatory drugs. Their suitability as ‘ideal anti-diabetic drugs’ will be discussed.

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