The selection of appropriate pharmacologic therapy for any disease requires a careful assessment of benefit and risk. In the case of type 2 diabetes, this decision typically balances the benefits accrued from improved glycemic control with the risks inherent in glucose-lowering medications. This review is intended to assist therapeutic decision-making by carefully assessing the potential benefit from improved metabolic control relative to the potential risks of a wide array of currently prescribed glucose-lowering agents. Wherever possible, risks and benefits have been expressed in terms of absolute rates (events per 1000 patient-years) to facilitate cross-study comparisons. The review incorporates data from new studies (Action in Diabetes and Vascular Disease: Preterax and Diamicron Modified Release Controlled Evaluation, Action to Control Cardiovascular Risk in Diabetes, and the Veterans Affairs Diabetes Trial), as well as safety issues associated with newer glucose-lowering medications.