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Endocr Pract. 2007 Oct;13(6):601-8.

Novel endocrine disrupter effects of classic and atypical antipsychotic agents and divalproex: induction of adrenal hyperandrogenism, reversible with metformin or rosiglitazone.

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Department of Medicine, Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center and SUNY Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, New York, USA.



To ascertain an association between the a priori known insulin resistance caused by antipsychotic agents and divalproex and adrenal hyperandrogenism and to determine whether the associated hyperandrogenism is reversible with insulin sensitizers.


We studied 26 consecutive psychiatric inpatients (22 women and 4 men) receiving the aforementioned medications, who were referred to us for a consultation. They ranged in age from 19 to 79 years and had a mean body mass index (SEM) of 32.35 +/- 1.26 kg/m2. Between 8 AM and 9 AM, blood samples were collected for 17-hydroxyprogesterone, 17-hydroxypregnenolone, androstenedione, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), DHEA sulfate, 11-deoxycortisol, luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone (in reproductive age women), estrone, estradiol (in reproductive age women), free testosterone (in women), deoxycorticosterone, and sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), which were measured by radioimmunoassay, after chromatography if necessary. For intact, premenopausal women, measurement of the abnormal steroid metabolite or SHBG level was repeated during prednisone therapy (5 mg at bedtime) to document the likely adrenal origin of the abnormality. Men, women who had undergone bilateral oophorectomy, and postmenopausal women had hyperandrogenism of adrenal origin by default. Clinical features included central obesity, acanthosis, hirsutism, alopecia, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and oligomenorrhea.


We found reversed estrone/estradiol ratios in 4 patients, decreased SHBG in 4, increased 17-hydroxy-pregnenolone in 8, increased 17-hydroxyprogesterone in 2, increased deoxycorticosterone in 2, increased DHEA sulfate in 1, increased 11-deoxycortisol in 4, increased androstenedione in 1, and reversed ratios of luteinizin hormone to follicle-stimulating hormone in 2. The bio-chemical abnormalities were corrected in 8 of 8 patients receiving metformin and in 2 of 2 patients receiving rosiglitazone.


Insulin resistance caused by antipsychotic agents and divalproex is associated with adrenal hyperandrogenism. Metformin and rosiglitazone correct the biochemical abnormalities detected without compromising their psychotropic effect. Adrenal androgen synthesis may be increased by hyperinsulinemia-induced hyperphosphorylation of P450c17 alpha, resulting in an increase in its 17,20-lyase activity, which magnifies the effects of any distal steroidogenic enzyme defects. Treatment with metformin or rosiglitazone prevents excess adrenal androgen synthesis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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