Despite well-documented clinical benefit of the use of statins in patients with coronary artery disease (CAD) and even mild lipid elevations, studies have documented the presence of a significant "treatment gap" between those patients in whom treatment is indicated and those patients who actually receive it. It has been proposed that a prescription for statin therapy given to indicated patients at the time of initial angiographic diagnosis of CAD has the potential to improve long-term medication compliance, but this requires further evaluation. We prospectively followed 600 patients with angiographically demonstrated CAD (diameter stenosis > or = 70%) who met the National Cholesterol Education Project (NCEP) guidelines for statin therapy for an average of 3.0 years (range 2.0 to 4.6). Patients were an average of 65 years of age, 78% were men, 77% presented initially with acute ischemic syndrome, and 64 (10.7%) died during follow-up. Overall, 105 patients (18%) were discharged from the initial hospitalization with a statin prescription. At long-term follow-up, the number of patients taking statins had increased to 47%. However, long-term statin compliance was significantly higher among patients initially discharged with a statin prescription than those who were not (77% vs 40%; p < 0.0001). Additionally, those patients discharged with a statin prescription had significantly reduced mortality rate at long-term follow-up (5.7% vs 11.7%; p = 0.05). Cox hazard regression analysis, controlling for all known clinical baseline variables, confirmed the absence of a prehospital discharge statin prescription to be an independent predictor of increased mortality (hazard ratio 2.4) with a statistical trend (p = 0.06). Thus, this study demonstrates that after angiographic diagnosis of CAD, prescription of appropriate statin therapy at the time of hospital discharge improves long-term statin compliance and may significantly enhance survival.