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Med J Aust. 2001 Jun 4;174(11):580-3.

Metformin and intervention in polycystic ovary syndrome. Endocrine Society of Australia, the Australian Diabetes Society and the Australian Paediatric Endocrine Group.

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  • 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Adelaide, SA.


Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is classically characterised by ovarian dysfunction (oligomenorrhoea, anovulation and infertility), androgen excess (hirsutism and acne), obesity, and morphological abnormalities of the ovaries (cystic enlargement and stromal expansion). More recently, insulin resistance has been found to be common in PCOS, along with an increased prevalence of other features of the "metabolic syndrome", namely glucose intolerance, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and hyperlipidaemia. Hyperinsulinaemia is likely to contribute to the disordered ovarian function and androgen excess of PCOS. Reducing insulin resistance by lifestyle modifications such as diet and exercise improves endocrine and menstrual function in PCOS. These lifestyle modifications are the best initial means of improving insulin resistance. Metformin, an oral hypoglycaemic agent that increases insulin sensitivity, has been shown to reduce serum concentrations of insulin and androgens, to reduce hirsutism, and to improve ovulation rates. The effect of metformin alone on fertility rates is unknown. Some studies suggest that metformin will reduce total body weight to a small extent, but with a predominant effect on visceral adipose reduction. The effects of metformin on lipid abnormalities, hypertension or premature vascular disease are unknown, but the relative safety, moderate cost, and efficacy in reducing insulin resistance suggest that metformin may prove to be of benefit in combating these components of the "metabolic" syndrome in PCOS. Further properly planned randomised controlled trials are required.

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