Despite exhaustive efforts to better manage patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (formerly known as non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus), attempts at maintaining near normal blood glucose levels in these patients remains unsatisfactory. This continues to pose a real challenge to physicians as the prevalence of this disease in the United States continues to rise. Type 2 diabetes is defined as a syndrome characterized by insulin deficiency, insulin resistance and increased hepatic glucose output. Medications used to treat type 2 diabetes are designed to correct one or more of these metabolic abnormalities. Currently, there are five distinct classes of hypoglycemic agents available, each class displaying unique pharmacologic properties. These classes are the sulfonylureas, meglitinides, biguanides, thiazolidinediones and alpha-glucosidase inhibitors. In patients for whom diet and exercise do not provide adequate glucose control, therapy with a single oral agent can be tried. When choosing an agent, it is prudent to consider both patient- and drug-specific characteristics. If adequate blood glucose control is not attained using a single oral agent, a combination of agents with different mechanisms of action may have additive therapeutic effects and result in better glycemic control.