Experimental Treatments for Type 2 Diabetes

Lifestyle changes such as eating a diabetes-friendly diet, exercising more, and maintaining a healthy body weight combined with existing treatment options are the best way to prevent or manage type 2 diabetes.

However, for people with type 2 diabetes who have trouble controlling their blood sugar by making healthier lifestyle choices or taking medications, experimental treatments could help.

This article provides an overview of type 2 diabetes experimental treatments and explains how the latest type 2 diabetes research has led to new Food and Drug Administration (FDA)–approved pharmacological treatments and devices like the "artificial pancreas."

Read on to learn more about other experimental treatments for type 2 diabetes that show promise but haven't been approved by the FDA yet.

Man getting blood tested

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Pharmacological Treatments

Only about half of all U.S. adults with type 2 diabetes achieve good blood sugar level targets based on the A1c test, a simple blood test measuring blood sugar levels averaged over the past three months.

Fortunately, advances in type 2 diabetes research have led to some groundbreaking experimental treatments and drug combinations that show promise in preliminary studies.

Mounjaro (Tirzepatide)

The latest pharmacological treatment approved by the FDA for type 2 diabetes combines glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) agonists and glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptides (GIP).

In May 2022, the FDA approved the novel type 2 diabetes injectable medication called Mounjaro (tirzepatide). Mounjaro is the first and only FDA-approved dual GIP and GLP-1 agonist medication for type 2 diabetes.


Sodium-glucose cotransporter-2 (SGLT2) inhibitors, also known as a glifozins, are another state-of-the-art class of drugs approved by the FDA to lower blood sugar in adults with type 2 diabetes. SGLT2 inhibitors are prescribed along with lifestyle changes like diet and exercise. Glifozins are not FDA-approved for patients with type 1 diabetes.

Accumulating evidence suggests that SGLT2 inhibitors have other health benefits such as promoting weight loss and improving cardiac functions. A meta-analysis (a formal assessment of previous research) of 10 clinical trials found that the use of SGLT2 inhibitors was associated with a 33% lower risk of life-threatening cardiovascular disease.

Wegovy (Semaglutide)

In June 2021, the FDA approved Wegovy, a weight-loss prescription drug, for people diagnosed with obesity and a weight-related condition such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol. In September 2022, researchers announced that weekly injections of this drug may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes risk by 61%.


Tesaglitazar is an experimental drug that showed promise as a treatment for type 2 diabetes in early studies. However, its development was put on hold by AstraZeneca in May 2006 before all of the phase 3 trials were completed. But this experimental treatment might be making a comeback.

In August 2022, a study in mice showed that combining tesaglitazar with GLP-1 agonists reduced the drug's adverse effects while increasing its positive effects on sugar metabolism. Still, human studies are needed.

Special Dietary and Nutritional Treatments

Eating a diet to help type 2 diabetes is one of the most effective ways for people with type 2 diabetes to control blood sugar. If you have diabetes, it's important to educate yourself about different types of carbohydrates and to monitor your blood sugar levels using a glucometer.

Research on supplements for type 2 diabetes has had mixed results. After years of research, a study of 2,423 people concluded that vitamin D supplements don't prevent type 2 diabetes and may not have long-term benefits. That said, a 2019 meta-analysis of other peer-reviewed studies concluded that vitamin D supplements may help people with type 2 diabetes control their blood sugar levels in the short term.

Over-the-counter (OTC) nutritional supplements that lower blood sugar can carry potential risks and are not intended to replace diabetes medications. Always use common sense and speak with a healthcare provider before making dietary changes or using nutritional supplements.

Artificial Pancreas

The "artificial pancreas" is a portable external device that controls blood glucose levels using a closed-loop insulin pump system. A 2021 study found that closed-loop artificial pancreas therapy helped people with type 2 diabetes safely manage their blood sugar levels and reduced the risk of severe hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) events.

Bariatric Surgery for Type 2 Diabetes

Bariatric weight-loss surgery is an effective treatment for many people with type 2 diabetes. Among bariatric procedures, a 2019 randomized trial found that gastric bypass surgery (creating and attaching a small pouch directly to the small intestine, bypassing the stomach) is superior to gastric sleeve surgery (removing a portion of the stomach) for remission of type 2 diabetes.

Pancreas Transplant

Although a pancreas transplant can benefit people with type 1 diabetes by restoring insulin production and improving blood sugar control, it's an extreme measure and isn't typically a treatment option for those with type 2 diabetes.

However, in certain patients with type 2 diabetes who have both a low production of insulin (hormone created by your pancreas that controls the sugar in your bloodstream) and insulin resistance (when cells stop responding to the insulin you make), a pancreas transplant may be considered.

However, the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) eligibility criteria strictly limit access to pancreas transplantation in patients with type 2 diabetes.

Islet Transplant Surgery for Diabetics

Islet cell transplantation is a treatment option for some patients with type 1 diabetes but isn't currently an FDA-approved option for those with type 2 diabetes.


Diabetes research has led to some groundbreaking new treatment options. In May 2022, the FDA approved a potentially game-changing new drug called Mounjaro (tirzepatide) that targets both GLP-1 and GIP. In September 2022, researchers announced that another experimental drug, tesaglitazar, which didn't initially succeed in clinical trials, shows renewed promise when combined with a GLP-1 antagonist.

Other new treatments, like SGLT2 inhibitors, are effective for type 2 diabetes when combined with lifestyle changes related to diet and exercise. For people who have trouble losing weight, bariatric surgery and weight-loss drugs like Wegovy (semaglutide) can help people maintain a healthy weight and lower their risk of type 2 diabetes.

Experimental treatments for type 2 diabetes carry risks. Always speak to a healthcare provider before making changes to your diet or taking nutritional supplements.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is there a cure for type 2 diabetes?

    No. There is no cure for type 2 diabetes. Losing weight, eating healthier, and exercising more can help to prevent and manage this type 2 diabetes. If diet, exercise, and weight loss fail to control blood sugar, antidiabetic medications or insulin therapy can help achieve glycemic targets.

  • What can a person with diabetes take instead of metformin?

    If you have diabetes and want to take something other than metformin, speak to a healthcare provider about your options. Some alternatives to metformin that people with type 2 diabetes can use to control high blood sugar include, Farxiga (dapagliflozin), Invokana (canagliflozin), Jardiance (empagliflozin), and Nesina (alogliptin).

  • Are there vitamins that help with diabetes?

    There's little to no evidence-based research showing that specific vitamins are helpful to people with diabetes in the long term. Vitamin D may help people with diabetes in the short term, but a yearslong National Institutes of Health–funded trial ultimately found that vitamin D supplements do not prevent type 2 diabetes.

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Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Christopher Bergland
Christopher Bergland is a retired ultra-endurance athlete turned medical writer and science reporter.