Fibric acid derivatives are a class of hypolipidaemic drugs used in the treatment of patients with hypertriglyceridaemia, mixed hyperlipidaemia and diabetic dyslipidaemia. Fibrate therapy results in a significant decrease in serum triglycerides and an increase in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels. The latest drugs of this class are also effective in lowering low-density (LDL) cholesterol levels and can change the distribution of LDL towards higher and larger particles. The effects of fibrates on lipid metabolism are mostly mediated through the activation of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARalpha). A number of angiographic and clinical trials have confirmed that fibrates can slow the progression of atherosclerotic disease and decrease cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Recently published data suggest that the ability of fibrates to prevent atherosclerosis is not related only to their hypolipidaemic effects but also to other 'pleiotropic effects', such as their anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antithrombotic effects, as well as their ability to improve endothelial function. Interestingly, fibrates may favourably influence the thrombotic/fibrinolytic system. In fact, most of these drugs can significantly decrease plasma fibrinogen levels and inhibit tissue factor expression and activity in human monocytes and macrophages. Some studies have shown that fibrates can improve carbohydrate metabolism in patients with dyslipidaemia, including diabetic patients. Among fibrates only fenofibrate can significantly decrease serum uric acid levels by increasing renal urate excretion. Fibrates, with the possible exception of gemfibrozil, can significantly increase serum creatinine and homocysteine levels. Finally, a reduction in serum alkaline phosphatase and gamma glutamyltranspeptidase (gammaGT) activity is a well-documented effect of therapy with fibrates. The fibrates are generally well-tolerated drugs with few side-effects. The most important side-effect is myositis, which is observed in patients with impaired renal function or when statins are given concomitantly.