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Tolbutamide is used in adults to control blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes (non-insulin dependent) which cannot be controlled by diet and exercise alone.

How it works

Tolbutamide belongs to a group of medicines called sulfonylureas. It helps pancreas to produce insulin, helping the body use insulin efficiently, which in turn helps to lower blood sugar.

Common side effects

Nausea, Increased sensitivity to light, Abnormal liver function tests, Anemia, Constipation, Diarrhoea, Fall in blood sugar level, Headache, Decreased appetite, Increased appetite, Jaundice, Rash, Ringing in ear, Tingling sensation, Vomiting, Weight gain


Expert advice

  • Tolbutamide tablets should be used along with and not as a replacement for dietary restrictions. 
  • Swallow tolbutamide with or immediately after the first main meal of the day or in smaller doses throughout the day with meals. Tell your doctor if you feel very weak, are elderly, malnourished, or experience an increased number of sore throats or fevers; develop spontaneous bruising or bleeding; have mild kidney disease; have an inherited condition where red blood cells don’t produce enough of the enzyme glucose 6 phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD); have a disorder of pituitary or adrenal glands; a history of heart disease.
  • Always keep a source of sugar with you as low blood sugar is common (hypoglycaemia) in person who has diabetes. Symptoms include headache, hunger, sweating, confusion, irritability, dizziness, or feeling shaky. To prevent low blood sugar, eat meals at the same time each day and do not skip meals.
  • You should also watch for signs of high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) such as increased thirst, increased urination, hunger, dry mouth, fruity breath odour, drowsiness, dry skin, blurred vision, and weight loss.
  • You will need to check your blood sugar regularly and carefully to monitor your condition.
  • Do not consume alcohol while taking tolbutamide. It may increase the risk of low blood sugar.
  • Avoid exposure to sunlight as tolbutamide can make you sunburn more easily.
  • While taking tolbutamide, do not drive or operate machinery until your blood sugar is under control or Tell your doctor if you are or planning to become pregnant or are breastfeeding.

Frequently asked questions


Q. What is tolbutamide/ what is tolbutamide orinase/ what is tolbutamide used for?
Tolbutamide (brand name Orinase) is used in adults to control blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes (non-insulin dependent) which cannot be controlled by diet alone.
Q. How does tolbutamide work/ how does tolbutamide lower blood glucose?
Tolbutamide helps pancreas to produce insulin which in turn helps to lower blood sugar.
Q. Is tolbutamide contraindicated for older adults?
Tolbutamide is not contraindicated for older adults, but it should used with caution and should be initiated at lower doses. 
Q. Is tolbutamide still used?
Tolbutamide is used in generic form. No brands are available for same.

Content on this page was last updated on 30 September, 2016, by Dr. Varun Gupta (MD Pharmacology)