AimsTo explore patients' perceptions and experiences of taking oral medications for the pharmacological management of Type 2 diabetes mellitus.MethodsCinahl, EMBASE, Medline and PsycINFO databases were searched in 2014 to identify qualitative studies exploring patients' perceptions or experiences of taking medications for the management of Type 2 diabetes. Key concepts and themes were extracted and synthesized using meta-ethnography.ResultsEight studies were included. Primary study findings were synthesized to develop three higher-order constructs that moved beyond the results of individual studies. The first construct, Medications for diabetes: a necessary evil, outlines how patients' negative perceptions of medication risks co-exist with a resounding view that medications are beneficial. Passive patients but active experimenters highlights the contrast between patients' passive acceptance of medication prescriptions and the urge to actively experiment and adjust doses to optimize medication use in daily life. Finally, Taking oral medication for Type 2 diabetes: a unique context describes features specific to the Type 2 diabetes medication experience, including lack of symptoms and the perceived relationship between medication and diet, which may influence adherence.ConclusionsMedication-taking for Type 2 diabetes is a unique adherence context, which requires the development of condition-specific interventions. The present findings indicate patients understand the need for medications but adjust dosage and timing in their daily lives. This review suggests providers should acknowledge patient preferences in the development of management strategies, and highlights an opportunity to direct the motivation evident in patients' experimentation towards potentially more beneficial medication-taking behaviours.