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Open Access Research article

The efficacy and safety of insulin-sensitizing drugs in HIV-associated lipodystrophy syndrome: a meta-analysis of randomized trials

Siddharth H Sheth1* and Robin J Larson123

Author Affiliations

1 The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, Lebanon, NH, USA

2 The VA Outcomes Group, Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, White River Junction, VT, USA

3 Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, NH, USA

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2010, 10:183  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-10-183

Published: 23 June 2010



HIV-associated lipodystrophy syndrome (HALS) is characterized by insulin resistance, abnormal lipid metabolism and redistribution of body fat. To date, there has been no quantitative summary of the effects of insulin sensitizing-agents for the treatment of this challenging problem.


We searched MEDLINE, the Cochrane Library, clinical trial registries, conference proceedings and references for randomized trials evaluating rosiglitazone, pioglitazone or metformin in patients with evidence of HALS (last update December 2009). Two reviewers independently abstracted data and assessed quality using a standard form. We contacted authors for missing data and calculated weighted mean differences (WMD) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for each outcome.


Sixteen trials involving 920 patients met inclusion criteria. Rosiglitazone modestly improved fasting insulin (WMD -3.67 mU/L; CI -7.03, -0.31) but worsened triglycerides (WMD 32.5 mg/dL; CI 1.93, 63.1), LDL (WMD 11.33 mg/dL; CI 1.85, 20.82) and HDL (WMD -2.91 mg/dL; CI -4.56, -1.26) when compared to placebo or no treatment in seven trials. Conversely, pioglitazone had no impact on fasting insulin, triglycerides or LDL but improved HDL (WMD 7.60 mg/dL; CI 0.20, 15.0) when compared to placebo in two trials. Neither drug favorably impacted measures of fat redistribution. Based on six trials with placebo or no treatment controls, metformin reduced fasting insulin (WMD -8.94 mU/L; CI -13.0, -4.90), triglycerides (WMD -42.87 mg/dL; CI -73.3, -12.5), body mass index (WMD -0.70 kg/m2; CI -1.09, -0.31) and waist-to-hip ratio (WMD -0.02; CI -0.03, 0.00). Three trials directly compared metformin to rosiglitazone. While effects on insulin were comparable, lipid levels and measures of fat redistribution all favored metformin. Severe adverse events were uncommon in all 16 trials.


Based on our meta-analysis, rosiglitazone should not be used in HALS. While pioglitazone may be safer, any benefits appear small. Metformin was the only insulin-sensitizer to demonstrate beneficial effects on all three components of HALS.