Medicines and treatments for type 1 diabetes

In addition to dietary changes and physical activity, people with type 1 diabetes will always need to use injected insulin to control their blood sugar levels, since their body produces little or no insulin.

Controlling diabetes with insulin is essential

There are three main reasons to treat type 1 diabetes with insulin:

  • to relieve the symptoms of type 1 diabetes, including increased thirst and needing to urinate frequently
  • to keep blood glucose as close as possible to recommended levels (i.e. 6.1–8.0 millimoles [mmol] per litre [L] before a meal and 6.0–10.0 mmol/L after a meal) to avoid ‘hypos’ (hypoglycaemia)
  • to reduce the risk of developing the complications of diabetes, such as heart disease, kidney disease, eye conditions, and foot and leg problems.

People with type 1 diabetes may use different types and forms of insulin and the dose will vary according to their individual needs. The type, form and dose of insulin may need to change during pregnancy and illness, or before and after surgery.

If you would like to find out more, read our detailed medicines information about insulin.

Anyone with type 1 diabetes should also follow a healthy, balanced diet and be physically active. This can help to maintain a healthy weight and may improve blood glucose control, reduce the need for medicines, and help to prevent some of the long-term complications of diabetes.

Some people will need to take other medicines to manage their diabetes-related health problems (e.g. high blood pressure or high cholesterol) in addition to using injected insulin and following a healthy diet, quitting smoking, and undertaking regular physical activity.

It is important for people to tell their health professional about all the medicines they are taking — prescription, over-the-counter and complementary (herbal/‘natural’/vitamin/mineral) medicines — as some medicines may interact with insulin and affect blood glucose control.

Help with managing your medicines

If you are taking several medicines, you may find a Home Medicines Review by a pharmacist useful.

Watch this video if you would like to find out more about Home Medicines Reviews.

©2009 NPS and Diabetes TASMANIA

A medicines list can help you keep track of all the medicines you are taking, including prescription, over-the-counter, herbal and natural medicines. Make sure that you:

  • keep it up to date by removing any medicines you are no longer using and adding new medicines as you start using them
  • take it with you each time you visit your doctor, pharmacist or health professional, or if you go into hospital
  • keep it with you at all times in case of emergency.

If you would like to find out more, to print an NPS Medicines List, or download our free medicines list iPhone app, see our Medicines List webpage.

Phone for medicines information

Call NPS Medicines Line on 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424) to get information about your prescription, over-the-counter and complementary medicines from a pharmacist.

  • Craig ME, Twigg SM, Donaghue KC, et al for the Australian Type 1 Diabetes Guidelines Expert Advisory Group. National evidence-based clinical care guidelines for type 1 diabetes in children, adolescents and adults. Canberra: Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, 2011. (accessed 15 November 2011).
  • Rossi S, ed. eAMH [online]. Adelaide: Australian Medicines Handbook, July 2012.
  • Sweetman S, ed. Martindale: The complete drug reference [online]. London: Pharmaceutical Press. (accessed 18 October 2011).
  • Baxter K, ed. Stockley's drug interactions: A source book of interactions, their mechanisms, clinical importance and management. 9th edn. London: Pharmaceutical Press, May 2010. (accessed 18 October 2011).
  • The relevant consumer medicine information and product information have been consulted for every medicine discussed.