Why Isn’t My Type 2 Diabetes Medication Working?

Sometimes, your Type 2 diabetes medication might stop working. Find out what can cause this and what you can do next.

March, 2021


Controlling your blood sugar is not easy – even when you are taking medication. Levels can go up and down. Sometimes, your Type 2 diabetes treatment might stop working altogether.

There are lots of reasons this might happen. Firstly, Type 2 diabetes medications do not work on their own. Maybe your diet and exercise routine has taken a dip lately, or maybe you have forgotten to take a dose or two.

It might not have anything to do with how you manage your condition. Sometimes, people with Type 2 diabetes need to adjust their dose or the type of medicine they take.

If you notice that your medication has stopped working or you are having increased side effects then talk to your healthcare team, they will help you understand what might be causing the problem and work with you to plan your next steps.


Type 2 diabetes affects how the body turns glucose in the carbohydrates we eat into energy as people who have Type 2 diabetes do not have the insulin they need to remove excess glucose from the blood.

It means you have to think carefully about what you eat. According to the NHS, people with Type 2 diabetes should:

  • eat a healthy, balanced diet that includes lots of fruit and vegetables
  • keep sugar, fat, and salt to a minimum
  • never skip meals
Sometimes, it can be hard to stick to these guidelines. Eating too much sugar or carbohydrate can cause spikes in blood sugar levels that your medication cannot cope with.


Physical activity is also important for managing blood glucose levels. When you exercise, you breathe harder and your heart beats faster. The body uses more fuel, or glucose, and this lowers blood glucose levels.

Over time, regular exercise also makes the insulin in your body work better.

The NHS recommends people aim for 2.5 hours of activity every week. As long as the activity leaves you out of breath, it could be anything you enjoy. Fast walking, dancing, cycling, gardening, and swimming all count.

Of course, we all lose our motivation from time to time. If your exercise routine has taken a stumble recently, why not try starting small and building back up?

Weight gain

Gaining weight can impact the way your Type 2 diabetes medication works.

When fat builds up inside the liver and the pancreas, it can stop the body making and using the right amount of insulin at the right time. Doctors call this insulin resistance.

By losing weight you can increase insulin sensitivity, or the body’s ability to use insulin properly.

We all know that weight loss is easier said than done. But why not try making a few small changes? You could cut out fatty snacks, and swap white pasta and rice for wholemeal versions, for example. It all adds up.

Missing doses

If you have missed a dose of your Type 2 diabetes medication, you are not alone. Around half of all people with a long-term condition miss their medicine sometimes.

It is, however, important to remember that your diabetes treatment will only work if you take it as your healthcare team tell you to. Some people find it helps to set an alarm on their phone or ask a family member to remind them to take their medicine.

Diabetes progression

Even with all your best efforts, Type 2 diabetes medicine can just stop working sometimes. In fact, between 5% and 10% of people with the condition stop responding to their treatment every year.

Doctors might call this treatment failure, but it does not mean that you have failed. Diabetes is a progressive condition that tends to get worse over time. This means your medication or dosing may need to change.

When this happens, your healthcare team will work with you to decide the next steps. They will look at things like your HbA1c test results, which show your blood sugar levels over the previous few months. Your team might recommend a different dose or a different medication. They may advise you to add another oral medicine, or pill, to your treatment plan.

Sometimes, they may recommend insulin therapy. According to the American Diabetes Association, there are different types of insulin, depending on how quickly they work, when they work best, and how long they last. The right one is different for everyone.

People use a syringe or pen-like device to inject the insulin into the fat under the skin. Your healthcare team will show you how to do this. They will also work with you to decide how many times a day to inject.

As with all medications, insulin therapy carries potential side effects. Remember, these are only a possibility and not everyone will experience them. They include:
  • hypoglycaemia (hypos)
  • headaches
  • nausea
  • flu-like symptoms
  • bruises and lumps at the injection site
  • weight gain
If you experience any of the side effects of insulin, speak to your diabetes doctor or nurse. They may need to change your dose.