Repaglinide, a carbamoylmethyl benzoic acid derivative, is the first of a new class of oral antidiabetic agents designed to normalise postprandial glucose excursions in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Like the sulphonylureas, repaglinide reduces blood glucose by stimulating insulin release from pancreatic beta-cells, but differs from these and other antidiabetic agents in its structure, binding profile, duration of action and mode of excretion. In clinical trials of up to 1-year's duration, repaglinide maintained or improved glycaemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. In comparative, 1-year, double-blind, randomised trials (n = 256 to 544), patients receiving repaglinide (0.5 to 4mg before 3 daily meals) achieved similar glycaemic control to that in patients receiving glibenclamide (glyburide) < or = 15 mg/day and greater control than patients receiving glipizide < or = 15 mg/day. Changes from baseline in glycosylated haemoglobin and fasting blood glucose levels were similar between patients receiving repaglinide and glibenclamide in all studies; however, repaglinide was slightly better than glibenclamide in reducing postprandial blood glucose in I short term study (n = 192). Patients can vary their meal timetable with repaglinide: the glucose-lowering efficacy of repaglinide was similar for patients consuming 2, 3 or 4 meals a day. Repaglinide showed additive effects when used in combination with other oral antidiabetic agents including metformin, troglitazone, rosiglitazone and pioglitazone, and intermediate-acting insulin (NPH) given at bedtime. In 1-year trials, the most common adverse events reported in repaglinide recipients (n = 1,228) were hypoglycaemia (16%), upper respiratory tract infection (10%), rhinitis (7%), bronchitis (6%) and headache (9%). The overall incidence of hypoglycaemia was similar to that recorded in patients receiving glibenclamide, glipizide or gliclazide (n = 597) [18%]; however, the incidence of serious hypoglycaemia appears to be slightly higher in sulphonylurea recipients. Unlike glibenclamide, the risk of hypoglycaemia in patients receiving repaglinide was not increased when a meal was missed in 1 trial. In conclusion, repaglinide is a useful addition to the other currently available treatments for type 2 diabetes mellitus. Preprandial repaglinide has displayed antihyperglycaemic efficacy at least equal to that of various sulphonylureas and is associated with a reduced risk of serious hypoglycaemia. It is well tolerated in a wide range of patients, including the elderly, even if a meal is missed. Furthermore, glycaemic control is improved when repaglinide is used in combination with metformin. Thus, repaglinide should be considered for use in any patient with type 2 diabetes mellitus whose blood glucose cannot be controlled by diet or exercise alone, or as an adjunct in patients whose glucose levels are inadequately controlled on metformin alone.