The intima-media thickness of the carotid artery has been established as a surrogate of definite atherosclerosis in subjects with high risk of vascular events. This study was done to evaluate the effectiveness of long-term antiplatelet therapy in attenuating progression of the intima-media thickness of the carotid artery of subjects with type 2 diabetes. Subjects who had an intima-media thickness over the threshold of the normal subjects but showed no symptoms of vascular events were randomly divided into groups given antiplatelet drugs [ticlopidine (n = 34) or a small dose of aspirin (n = 40)] or no drugs (n = 74). For the follow-up period (3.0+/-0.06 years), the subjects not given antiplatelet drugs showed a significantly higher progression of intima-media thickness (0.067+/-0.009 mm/year) than those given ticlopidine (0.034+/-0.013 mm/year) or aspirin (0.033+/-0.010 mm/year). Stepwise multivariant regression analysis showed that long-term administration of ticlopidine or aspirin significantly reduced the progression of intima-media thickness of diabetic subjects by 0.041 mm/year or 0.032 mm/ year, respectively. These data indicated that despite differences of their pharmacological mechanisms, antiplatelet drugs could attenuate the progression of intima-media thickness of the carotid artery wall of asymptomatic type 2 diabetics who had early-stage carotid atherosclerosis.