Use of metformin in polycystic ovary syndrome: a meta-analysis

Obstet Gynecol. 2008 Apr;111(4):959-68. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0b013e31816a4ed4.


Objective: To update the state of evidence on the efficacy of metformin, used either alone or in combination with clomiphene citrate in women with polycystic ovary syndrome, by examining three outcomes: ovulation, pregnancy, and live birth. Sources of heterogeneity among the published randomized controlled trials are systematically assessed.

Data sources: An electronic literature search was performed using MEDLINE, EMBASE, SCOPUS, CENTRAL, Cochrane, and U.S. Food and Drug Administration databases, restricted to studies conducted on humans and published in English.

Methods of study selection: Of the 406 potentially relevant articles identified, 17 met criteria for inclusion in the meta-analysis, rendering a total sample of 1,639 women. Study quality was examined in terms of randomization scheme, masking process, adequacy of allocation concealment, statistical power, and loss to follow-up; publication bias was also assessed. Meta-analytic procedures were used to compare metformin with placebo, and metformin plus clomiphene with clomiphene alone, for all study outcomes. Exploratory analyses were conducted to assess differences in treatment effects between clomiphene-resistant and nonresistant patients, obese and nonobese patients, and trials with long and short durations of follow-up.

Tabulation, integration, and results: Metformin improved the odds of ovulation in women with polycystic ovary syndrome when compared with placebo (odds ratio [OR] 2.94; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.43-6.02; number-needed-to-treat 4.0) and appears more effective for non-clomiphene-resistant women. Metformin and clomiphene increased the likelihood of ovulation (OR 4.39; 95% CI 1.94-9.96; number-needed-to-treat 3.7) and pregnancy (OR 2.67; 95% CI 1.45-4.94; number-needed-to-treat 4.6) when compared with clomiphene alone, especially in clomiphene-resistant and obese women with polycystic ovary syndrome. These treatment effects were greater for trials with shorter follow-up.

Conclusion: Using all available evidence, this meta-analysis suggests that metformin increases the likelihood of ovulation and, in combination with clomiphene, increases the odds of both ovulation and pregnancy in women with polycystic ovary syndrome.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Clomiphene / therapeutic use
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Fertility Agents, Female / pharmacology
  • Fertility Agents, Female / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / pharmacology
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Live Birth
  • Metformin / pharmacology
  • Metformin / therapeutic use*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Ovulation / drug effects*
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • Fertility Agents, Female
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Clomiphene
  • Metformin