The metabolic syndrome, which is a set of lipid and nonlipid risk factors of metabolic origin linked with insulin resistance, is believed to be associated with an elevated risk for cardiovascular disease, but few have studied this association in prospective long-term cardiovascular outcomes trials. Placebo data from the Scandinavian Simvastatin Survival Study (4S) and the Air Force/Texas Coronary Atherosclerosis Prevention Study (AFCAPS/TexCAPS) were used post hoc to estimate the long-term relative risk of major coronary events (MCEs) associated with the metabolic syndrome, after excluding diabetes mellitus. In 4S and AFCAPS/TexCAPS, respectively, placebo-treated patients with the metabolic syndrome were 1.5 (95% confidence interval 1.2 to 1.8) and 1.4 (95% confidence interval 1.04 to 1.9) times more likely to have MCEs than those without it. Of the components of the metabolic syndrome, low high-density lipoprotein levels were associated with elevated risk of MCEs in both studies, whereas high triglycerides in 4S and elevated blood pressure and obesity in AFCAPS/TexCAPS were associated with significantly increased relative risk. Patients with the metabolic syndrome showed increased risk of MCEs irrespective of their Framingham-calculated 10-year risk score category (>20% vs </=20%). These data demonstrate that the metabolic syndrome is associated with increased risk of MCEs in both hypercholesterolemic patients with coronary heart disease in 4S and in those with low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol but without coronary heart disease in AFCAPS/TexCAPS. It appears that the metabolic syndrome is associated with risk that is not entirely accounted for by traditional risk scoring paradigms.