Statins for the treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome

Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) may suffer from irregular periods, excessive hair growth (hirsutism) and acne (pimples). High levels of serum androgens (male hormone) are one of the main features of PCOS. There is no good evidence from this review that statins improve menstrual regularity, spontaneous ovulation rate, hirsutism or acne, either alone or in combination with the combined oral contraceptive pill. There is also no good evidence that statins have a beneficial effect on hirsutism or acne (pimples) associated with PCOS. In women with PCOS, statins are effective in reducing serum androgen levels and decreasing bad cholesterol (LDL), but statins are not effective in reducing fasting insulin or insulin resistance. There is no good evidence available on the long-term use of statins (alone or in combination) for the management of PCOS.

Authors' conclusions: 

Although statins improve lipid profiles and reduce testosterone levels in women with PCOS, there is no evidence that statins improve resumption of menstrual regularity or spontaneous ovulation, nor is there any improvement of hirsutism or acne. There is a need for further research to be performed with large sample sizes and well-designed RCTs to assess clinical outcomes.

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Background: 

Statins, as lipid-lowering agents with pleiotropic actions, are likely not only to improve the dyslipidaemia associated with polycystic ovary syndrome but may also exert other beneficial metabolic and endocrine effects.

Objectives: 

To assess the efficacy and safety of statin therapy for women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) who are not actively trying to conceive.

Search strategy: 

We searched the following databases (from inception to week 1, July 2011): the Cochrane Menstrual Disorders and Subfertility Group Trials Register, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library), MEDLINE, EMBASE and CINAHL. We handsearched relevant conference proceedings and references of the identified articles for additional studies. We also contacted experts for further studies in progress.

Selection criteria: 

Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) comparing a statin versus placebo or statin in combination with another drug versus another drug alone in women with PCOS.

Data collection and analysis: 

Two review authors performed data collection and analysis independently.

Main results: 

Four trials fulfilled the criteria for inclusion. They comprised a total of 244 women with PCOS receiving 12 weeks or 6 weeks of treatment. Two trials (184 women randomised) studied the effects of simvastatin and two trials (60 women randomised) studied the effects of atorvastatin. There was no good evidence that statins improved menstrual regularity, spontaneous ovulation rate, hirsutism or acne, either alone or in combination with the combined oral contraceptive pill (OCP). Nor were there any significant effects on body mass index (BMI). Statins were effective in lowering testosterone levels (nmol/L) (mean difference (MD) -0.90, 95% CI -1.18 to -0.62, P < 0.00001, 3 RCTs, 105 women) when used alone or with the OCP. Statins also improved total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and triglycerides but had no significant effect on high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels, high sensitivity (HS) C-reactive protein (HS-CRP), fasting insulin or homeostatic model assessment (HOMA) insulin resistance. No serious adverse events were reported in any of the included studies.

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