Insulin-lowering agents in the management of polycystic ovary syndrome

Endocr Rev. 2003 Oct;24(5):633-67. doi: 10.1210/er.2002-0015.


Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a medical condition that has brought multiple specialists together. Gynecologists, endocrinologists, cardiologists, pediatricians, and dermatologists are all concerned with PCOS patients and share research data and design clinical trials to learn more about the syndrome. Insulin resistance is a common feature of PCOS and is more marked in obese women, suggesting that PCOS and obesity have a synergistic effect on the magnitude of the insulin disorder. Hyperinsulinemia associated with insulin resistance has been causally linked to all features of the syndrome, such as hyperandrogenism, reproductive disorders, acne, hirsutism, and metabolic disturbances. Women with PCOS should be evaluated for cardiovascular risk factors, such as lipid profile and blood pressure. Modification of diet and lifestyle should be suggested to those who are obese. Several insulin-lowering agents have been tested in the management of PCOS. In particular, metformin is the only drug currently in widespread clinical use for treatment of PCOS. In a high percentage of patients, treatment with metformin is followed by regularization of menstrual cycle, reduction in hyperandrogenism and in cardiovascular risk factors, and improvement in response to therapies for induction of ovulation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood*
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Metformin / therapeutic use
  • Obesity / complications
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / complications
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / therapy
  • Pregnancy
  • Thiazolidinediones / therapeutic use
  • Weight Loss


  • Insulin
  • Thiazolidinediones
  • Metformin