Individuals expressing the polymorphic CYP3A5 enzyme might show a more than average efficiency in the metabolism of lovastatin, simvastatin and atorvastatin. We studied whether the expression of CYP3A5 is associated with an impaired lipid-lowering response to statins in 69 Caucasian patients. Lovastatin, simvastatin and atorvastatin were significantly less effective in CYP3A5 expressors than in non-expressors. The mean serum total cholesterol concentration at 1 year was 23% higher (P = 0.0014) and the mean serum low-density lipoprotein cholesterol concentration was 24% higher (P = 0.036) in subjects possessing the CYP3A5*1 allele (CYP3A5 expressors, n = 7) than in subjects homozygous for the CYP3A5*3 allele (non-expressors, n = 39). The mean percentage reduction in serum total cholesterol from baseline was significantly smaller in CYP3A5 expressors than in non-expressors (17% versus 31%, P = 0.026). No association between hypolipidemic efficacy and CYP3A5 polymorphism was observed among 23 subjects taking statins that are not dependent on CYP3A5 (fluvastatin, pravastatin). These findings suggest that CYP3A5 may be a genetic determinant of interindividual differences in response to certain statins.