Hyperlipidemia is a well-established risk factor for primary coronary heart disease (CHD). Although simvastatin is known to lower serum lipid concentrations, the protective effect of such lipid-lowering therapy against primary CHD has not been established in Japanese patients with hypercholesterolemia. The Japan Lipid Intervention Trial was a 6-year, nationwide cohort study of 47,294 patients treated with open-labeled simvastatin (5-10 mg/day) and monitored by physicians under standard clinical conditions. The aim of the study was to determine the relationship between the occurrence of CHD and the serum lipid concentrations during low-dose simvastatin treatment. Simvastatin reduced serum concentrations of total cholesterol (TC), low-density lipoprotein- cholesterol (LDL-C) and triglyceride (TG), by 18.4%, 26.8% and 16.1% on average, respectively, during the treatment period. The risk of coronary events was higher when the average TC concentration was > or =240 mg/dl and the average LDL-C concentration was > or =160 mg/dl. The incidence of coronary events increased in the patients with TG concentration > or =300 mg/dl compared with patients with TG concentration <150 mg/dl. The high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) inversely correlated with the risk of coronary events. The J-curve association was observed between average TC or LDL-C concentrations and total mortality. Malignancy was the most prevalent cause of death. The health of patients should be monitored closely when there is a remarkable decrease in TC and LDL-C concentrations with low-dose statin. A reasonable strategy to prevent coronary events in Japanese hypercholesterolemic patients without prior CHD under low-dose statin treatment might be regulating the serum lipid concentrations to at least <240 mg/dl for TC, <160 mg/dl for LDL-C, <300 mg/dl for TG, and >40 mg/dl for HDL-C.