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Open Access Publications from the University of California

State of the Art Review: Emerging Therapies: The Use of Insulin Sensitizers in the Treatment of Adolescents with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

  • Author(s): Geller, David H
  • Pacaud, Danièle
  • Gordon, Catherine M
  • Misra, Madhusmita
  • et al.

Abstract PCOS, a heterogeneous disorder characterized by cystic ovarian morphology, androgen excess, and/or irregular periods, emerges during or shortly after puberty. Peri- and post-pubertal obesity, insulin resistance and consequent hyperinsulinemia are highly prevalent co-morbidities of PCOS and promote an ongoing state of excess androgen. Given the relationship of insulin to androgen excess, reduction of insulin secretion and/or improvement of its action at target tissues offer the possibility of improving the physical stigmata of androgen excess by correction of the reproductive dysfunction and preventing metabolic derangements from becoming entrenched. While lifestyle changes that concentrate on behavioral, dietary and exercise regimens should be considered as first line therapy for weight reduction and normalization of insulin levels in adolescents with PCOS, several therapeutic options are available and in wide use, including oral contraceptives, metformin, thiazolidenediones and spironolactone. Overwhelmingly, the data on the safety and efficacy of these medications derive from the adult PCOS literature. Despite the paucity of randomized control trials to adequately evaluate these modalities in adolescents, their use, particularly that of metformin, has gained popularity in the pediatric endocrine community. In this article, we present an overview of the use of insulin sensitizing medications in PCOS and review both the adult and (where available) adolescent literature, focusing specifically on the use of metformin in both mono- and combination therapy.

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