Tuesday, 21 October 2014


Hope you all have enjoyed reading my previous posts on “DIABETES - WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW”..

Today I am going to explain another drug in a simplest way possible..*

In the last post I had mentioned about Metformin. Today we will be dealing with another class of drugs called ALPHA GLUCOSIDASE INHIBITORS.

Too technical??

Names like GLUCOBAY**, ACARB**, MIGNAR**, ELITOX**, VOBOSE**, VOLIX**, PPG** may sound more familiar.... Right?

These drugs belong to the class of drugs which help in controlling the post prandial blood sugar values. Three major groups are currently available in the market.  In the late 90’s the group ACARBOSE (Glucobay**, Acarb**) was introduced in India. By 2006 VOGLIBOSE (Vobose**, Volix**, Ppg**) was introduced into the market. The main purpose of these groups of drugs was aimed at controlling the post prandial spikes in Diabetics. 

How does this drug work?#

To have a better understanding of this we need to know how the normal body works. Generally speaking the fasting blood sugar level is based on what you eat and also on the amount of glucose being pumped out from the liver. The post prandial values are largely based on what you eat. In normal people the pancreas release insulin in spurts in response to the food you take. So the pizza, burger, chocolates, ice creams or sweets are processed well and blood sugars are maintained in the normal range. As a patient develops Diabetes this normalcy is altered. The first pathology noticed is the altered timing of release of insulin from the pancreas. There is a delay in release of insulin so what happens is that the insulin is released a little later than expected. As there is nobody to regulate the incoming sugars the blood sugar levels slowly start to creep in the post prandial state. During management of Diabetes we face this challenge with majority of patients in India. There is an unexplained peak of blood sugars in the post prandial stage. Here is where this group of drugs help us.

Basically what we eat comes in the form of complex carbohydrates. For effective absorption these complex carbohydrates have to be converted to simple carbohydrates. This function is carried out by an enzyme in the body called Alpha Glucosidase. This alpha glucosidase enzyme is inhibited by these groups of drugs. The result is that the complex carbohydrates cannot be converted to simple carbohydrates and hence cannot be taken up by our system.

How to take alpha glucosidase inhibitors?

The duration of action of these tablets is very short compared any other tablets used in Diabetes management.
The general recommendation is to take the tablet just before food or take one morsel of food, take the tablet and continue with the food..
These tablets are available in plain and as combination with metformin.

Strengths & Potency..

Although the mechanism of action seems very convincing it normally doesn’t prevent the complete absorption of carbohydrates from the food we take. These drugs are generally used as “second line” drugs in management of diabetes. Acarbose & miglitol are available in 25mg and 50mg packing. Voglibose comes in 0.2 and 0.3mg forms.

Drawbacks ..

The incidences of gastrointestinal disturbances are more with this drug. Nearly 20-30% of patients develop Gastritis, Flatulence, and Nausea. In very few cases the side effects are troublesome leading to withdrawal of drug. The side effects can be minimized or prevented by adding appropriate drugs while starting on alpha glucosidase inhibitors (Doctor who examines you personally is the best judge on what drug will prevent side effects in you)
Some patients can have altered Liver Function Test with this drug so it is necessary to check your LFT once in 6months or atleast once a year.

Before I say Good bye....

The class of Alpha Glucosidase inhibitors are a very good option in controlling post prandial blood sugars. They have no effect on the Fasting blood sugars. It is safe to start on a lower dose. Hypoglycemia with is tablet is very rarely. The side effects in the form of gastrointestinal or Hepatitis are to be taken seriously. Doctor is the best judge to decide the dosage and timing of these tablets.

Wishing all my readers a very happy and safe Diwali!!

See you all soon...

Dr.Riyaz Sheriff

Links to the previous posts on DIABETES - WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW SERIES



*This write up is intended only to present scientific facts in the simplest way possible. There is no intention of contradicting your doctor’s treatment or opinion.
**Trade names are used only to make the reader understand the drugs better. The writer does not intend to support any particular brand via this blog.
#This information is provided in a simple format for clear understanding. It does not mention about the elaborate chemical reactions going on inside the body... 

                                                                                                                                             (To be Continued...........................)

Wednesday, 15 October 2014


Hi again!

So continuing with the series of   Diabetes – What You Need to Know!!

Today I am going to talk about Oral medicines.

When we think of Diabetes the name which comes along with Diabetes is the wonder drug called METFORMIN.

Metformin has been a cornerstone in Diabetes Management for decades now. A small group of old time physicians are still apprehensive of using this drug. The reason is not Metformin but its predecessor PHENFORMIN. This phenformin which was used during our grandpa’s time had its own side effects. This drug was withdrawn from the market long back. Metformin is devoid of most of the unwanted and dangerous side effects. Metformin comes under the class of BIGUANIDES.

Apart from its major role in the treatment of Diabetes Metformin is used in Conditions like Polycystic ovarian syndrome, weight management and where ever there is a need to combat insulin resistance Metformin is the drug of choice. Recent studies also indicate that this drug is useful in Breast Cancer. There are some studies which talk about the benefits of metformin in Rheumatiod Arthritis as well.

How does this drug work?

Well to understand this you need to know the very basic principle of Diabetes. Diabetes is a result of two processes. First one is the reduced insulin production by the pancreas and secondly the Insulin resistance. This means already the pancreas is producing little insulin and the body is not ready to take up the insulin in a normal way. Now this doesn’t happen overnight...  It takes years before you actually develop Diabetes. This stage where the body is trying to help you by overworking is called PREDIABETES. This is the only stage where the pathological process of progression from Normal to Diabetes can be STOPPED! ( I will write about Prediabetes in a later post )  When the body doesn’t utilize insulin in the normal way the Pancreas tries to compensate by producing much more insulin than required. This phase goes on for a few years. Slowly the pancreas also gets tired and Beta cells (Insulin producing cells in the Pancreas) start failing. Only when a considerable amount of Beta cells fail Diabetes develops. Metformin acts at the level of insulin resistance. The cells of our body act like locks and insulin acts like a key. Insulin opens up the receptors (the lock in the cells of our body) so that GLUCOSE can get inside the cells for a normal function and extra glucose can be converted to glycogen which is the storage form of glucose. In Diabetes, the number of receptors readily accepting insulin are less. With addition of metformin glucose uptake is better thereby reducing the level of glucose in blood.

How to take Metformin?

Metfomin is available commercially in many forms. It comes as
  • Plain metformin
  • A combination of Metformin & Acarbose.
  • Combination of Metformin & Voglibose
  • Combination of Metformin & Sulphonylureas (Glimipride, Glipizide, Gliclazide & Glibenclamide)
  • Combination with Pioglitazone
  • Metformin with the latest DPP IV inhibitors (Sitagliptin, Vildagliptin)
  • Combination of Metformin , Sulphonylurea & Pioglitazone.

When you are prescribed a plain tablet it is better to be taken after food. If you have been asked to take a combination generally the 2nd member in the combination is important to decide the timing of tablet. This holds true for combination of Metformin and sulphonylureas. So whenever you visit your Diabetologist or Physician never forget to ask in detail regarding timing of tablets.

Strengths & Potency

Metformin comes in various strengths. In India its is available as 250mg, 500mg, 500mg SR, 850mg , 1gm and 1gm SR. Although the number looks big compared to other tablets used in the treatment of Diabetes it is relatively a mild tablet. As it acts peripherally in reducing Insulin Resistance it can be used as the sole drug in treatment of diabetes or as an adjuvant to Sulphonylureas or Insulin.


Patients during initial course of treatment with metformin can experience Gastritis (Ask your Doctor about side effects and report to your Doctor if you are uncomfortable after starting Metformin)
Some patients lose weight ( Not exactly a drawback.... right??)
This drug should not be used when the Kidney function tests are abnormal..

Before closing......

Metformin is a Wonder Drug in the management of Diabetes. It works exceptionally well and its efficacy has been proven beyond doubts over the decades.. Several hundreds of research papers have been published proving that metformin works well in different settings. Now like any other drug we use, this drug also has side effect but MINIMAL. It is only prudent to say that Metformin is a tool which works well in the hands of the Doctor who knows to use it well......

So, Till we meet next.....

Take care... Stay healthy...

Dr.Riyaz Sheriff

Consultant Diabetologist..

Sunday, 12 October 2014


Hi everybody

Hope you all are having a sweet life..!

Today I am going to talk about some simple points which every Diabetic and care givers need to know.

Doctor selection

Diabetes as you all know is one topic which is widely spoken, discussed, researched and everyone tends to have their own views on Do’s and Dont’s. This happens among Physicians and Diabetologists as well. One doctor says “You can” and the other doctor says “It is bad”. So how to decide what to do??

Well the answer to this dilemma remains in you choosing your Doctor.
The normal pattern of Doctor Selection in India depends on where the Uncle, Aunty or Neighbour is consulting. If they say Dr.X is good then we start believing that and go ahead blindly with what he/she says. Worse scenario is when you go to pharmacy and ask the pharmacist who is the nearest good Doctor. Pharmacist doesn’t exactly know what you are having. End result is that  we see is that there are so many patients whose diabetes is managed by surgeons or gynaecologists. We do face this situation where the patient ends up with the Diabetologist only when the treating doctor says “You Need INSULIN”. By this time you have already wasted much valuable time experimenting on different types of medicines and your pancreas is too tired to take up any more experimentation/trial of tablets.

My suggestion would be - 

      1.Select a Doctor whose is ready to spend time during your first visit.

2.      See if he is asking you regarding details of your diet, exercise, regularity of medication & Timing of medication. 
      These are the points which help a Diabetologist select the best regimen for you.
      3.      Every Doctor needs time to bring your sugars down. Always assess 
      your progress by how you are feeling after starting the new medicines. Always report any kind of discomfort to your new Doctor.
      4.      Of Course .... Needless to say that you should never lie or hide some details from your doctor. The most common explanation given are “Oh ! That was done a long time back... Is it important” or “ I dint feel good with the earlier medicine, SO we will forget all old things and start treatment fresh” or “ We lost it all when we shifted from the old house, let’s start fresh”...... The fact remains that you Doctor knows best what is important and what is not so let him decide. Please don’t take decisions on your Doctor’s behalf. Secondly you and I can forget everything and start fresh but your body DOESNT follow the policy of FORGET & FORGIVE! It remembers all the trials, insults and experimentations done on it so instead of getting better you may feel WORSE.. Finally your old health records are not just papers... They hold so much of valuable information on what your body has gone through. They help the Doctor understand your body better and avoid unwanted drugs or drugs which may have some adverse effects on you..
      5.       Take all your old reports and prescriptions with you during your first visit. Make sure the Doctor goes through these during your first visit before prescribing medicine. If the Doctor is least interested to go through your old reports then you need to Think twice..

6.      Never ask us “Doctor , Can ayurveda or Siddha Cure Diabetes? Can I try?” It is not that we don’t like traditional medicine, the fact is we don’t know how it works. It is a undeniable fact that we do see lots of screw ups and lots of major organ damages so to be frank we would not like to comment on it.

Before you log out of my blog I must tell you that this post is not intended to criticise my colleagues or to form a generalised opinion. This is a result of experiences I have personally faced over the past 5 years as Diabetologist and 10years as a Doctor (There are worse ones which I feel should not be publicised in a public forum). Secondly I intend to cover some topics like timing of medicines- why follow them, Adverse effects of common medicines used in Diabetes etc. So please feel free to come back.. Finally before i say Bye I would be happy to see your comments and/or Constructive criticism..

Stay healthy...

See you Soon..

Dr.Riyaz Sheriff

                                                                                                                    (To be Continued..................)

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