An association between raised renin levels and myocardial infarction has been reported. We studied the effects of enalapril, an angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor, on the development of myocardial infarction and unstable angina in 6797 patients with ejection fractions < or = 0.35 enrolled into the two Studies of Left Ventricular Dysfunction (SOLVD) trials. Patients were randomly assigned to placebo (n = 3401) or enalapril (n = 3396) at doses of 2.5-20 mg per day in two concurrent double-blind trials with the same protocol. Patients with heart failure entered the treatment trial (n = 2569) and those without heart failure entered the prevention trial (n = 4228). Follow-up averaged 40 months. In each trial there were significant reductions in the number of patients developing myocardial infarction (treatment trial: 158 placebo vs 127 enalapril, p < 0.02; prevention trial: 204 vs 161 p < 0.01) or unstable angina (240 vs 187 p < 0.001; 355 vs 312, p < 0.05). Combined, there were 362 placebo group patients with myocardial infarction compared with 288 in the enalapril group (risk reduction 23%, 95% CI 11-34%; p < 0.001). 595 placebo group patients developed unstable angina compared with 499 in the enalapril group (risk reduction 20%, 95% CI 9-29%, p < 0.001). There was also a reduction in cardiac deaths (711 placebo, 615 enalapril; p < 0.003), so that the reduction in the combined endpoint of deaths, myocardial infarction, and unstable angina was highly significant (20% risk reduction, 95% CI 14-26%; p < 0.0001). Enalapril treatment significantly reduced myocardial infarction, unstable angina, and cardiac mortality in patients with low ejection fractions.