The recent publication of the Atorvastatin Versus Revascularization Treatment (AVERT) trial has renewed debate on the optimal management strategy for relatively stable patients with coronary artery disease. Currently, coronary angiography and percutaneous coronary intervention are often performed in stable patients with good exercise tolerance who have not been treated with proven medications such as aspirin, statins and beta-adrenergic blocking agents in conjunction with comprehensive lifestyle modification. We review the results of prior trials comparing medical therapy with angioplasty and assess their strengths and limitations and then make conclusions about the aggregate data. Next, we describe the ongoing Clinical Outcome Utilizing Revascularization and Aggressive Drug Evaluation (COURAGE) trial, which will be the largest of the studies comparing optimal medical therapy and percutaneous revascularization. This study will employ intensive medical management in all patients with coronary disease, and the incremental benefit of state of the art revascularization techniques in terms of clinical event reduction, quality of life issues and cost-effectiveness will be addressed. For now, aggressive medical therapy and revascularization should be viewed as complementary rather than opposing strategies. All patients with coronary heart disease should receive proven medical and lifestyle prescriptions to favorably alter the atherosclerotic process. Percutaneous revascularization without comprehensive risk factor modification is a suboptimal therapeutic strategy.