In patients with metastatic breast cancer, second-line therapy with aromatase inhibitors can improve survival in comparison with megestrol. We conducted a meta-analysis to assess the effectiveness of aromatase inhibitors versus megestrol. After a Medline search, three trials (evaluating letrozole, anastrozole or exemestane versus megestrol) were included in the survival meta-analysis. Our methodology retrieved patient-level information on survival. In comparison with megestrol, aromatase inhibitors prolonged survival at levels of statistical significance (relative death risk for oral aromatase inhibitors=0.79, 95% confidence interval 0.69-0.91; p=0.0011). A lifetime analysis of the pooled survival curves of aromatase inhibitors versus megestrol found a mean survival gain of 4.1 months per patient. Aromatase inhibitors confer a significant survival benefit to patients with metastatic breast cancer as compared with megestrol. A preliminary calculation of the cost per life year gained shows that the pharmacoeconomic profile of these drugs is favorable.