What is the role of metformin in the treatment of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)?

Updated: Sep 19, 2019
  • Author: Richard Scott Lucidi, MD, FACOG; Chief Editor: Richard Scott Lucidi, MD, FACOG  more...
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If the patient develops type 2 diabetes mellitus, consider treatment with oral antihyperglycemic drugs, such as metformin. Metformin can also be considered in other women with PCOS who are insulin resistant and therefore at risk of developing cardiovascular disease, even women without type 2 diabetes.

Clinical trials have shown that metformin can effectively reduce androgen levels, improve insulin sensitivity, and facilitate weight loss in patients with PCOS as early as adolescence. [59, 60, 61, 62] One study concluded that the use of metformin throughout pregnancy was associated with a 9-fold decrease in gestational diabetes in women with PCOS. [63] In addition to having the potential to reduce gestational diabetes in pregnant women with PCOS, metformin may also reduce the risk of preeclampsia in this population. [64]

A long-term study suggested that metformin continued to improve the metabolic profile of women with PCOS over a 36-month treatment course, particularly improving circulating high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), diastolic blood pressure, and body mass index (BMI). [65] However, data are insufficient as yet to recommend metformin to all women with PCOS.

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