Several new oral antidiabetic agents, known as ‘gliptins’ or ‘enzyme dipeptidyl peptidase-IV (DPP-4) inhibitors', have been developed for the treatment of type 2 diabetes and a key clinical use of the gliptins is in combination with metformin. There are important differences in the kinetics of the interaction of different gliptins with the catalytic site of DPP-4, which may lead to varying pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics and dosing regimens. Therefore, individual gliptins need to be characterized and here we discuss the extensively studied DPP-4 inhibitor vildagliptin, which has binding characteristics that ensure inhibition of the enzyme beyond the presence of detectable drug levels in plasma. As vildagliptin has been used most often at doses of 50 mg once or twice daily, in combination with metformin, this review focuses on these dose regimens. All clinical trials employing vildagliptin (50 mg once or twice daily) as an add-on therapy to metformin (identified by MEDLINE search using keywords vildagliptin and metformin or known by authors to be in press) are reviewed, as is current knowledge of the mechanism of action of vildagliptin. Vildagliptin added to a stable dose of metformin elicits a dose-related decrease in both HbA1c and fasting plasma glucose. The additional efficacy seen with 50 mg twice daily [ΔHbA1c ∼− 1.1% (−12.1 mmol/mol)] relative to 50 mg once daily [ΔHbA1c ∼− 0.7% (−7.7 mmol/mol)] is attributable to an overnight effect of the evening dose of vildagliptin, with prolonged DPP-4 inhibition and elevated fasting levels of the intact and insulinotropic form of glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). Vildagliptin's therapeutic actions are primarily mediated by GLP-1 and metformin enhances vildagliptin's effect to raise plasma levels of intact GLP-1. Vildagliptin is weight-neutral and has a very low hypoglycaemic potential, explained by its remarkable ability to enhance both α-cell and β-cell sensitivity to glucose. Therefore, vildagliptin offers a clinically important outcome when added to metformin with a twice daily dose regimen, taking advantage of its tight binding and slow dissociation characteristics that lead to a sustained overnight effect.