The effect of lipid lowering on hard exudates was determined in six consecutive patients with insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. Diet and hypolipidemic drug therapy including the use of pravastatin, a new inhibitor of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme-A reductase, were used to treat patients for one year. The total cholesterol concentration decreased from a mean baseline value of 231 mg/dl to a treatment mean value of 165 mg/dl. The mean low-density lipoprotein cholesterol concentration decreased from 157 mg/dl to 93 mg/dl. Masked grading of fundus photographs indicated an improvement in hard exudates in all six patients and a decrease in microaneurysms in four patients. Visual acuity improved in one patient and did not change (one line or less change) in five patients. No remarkable side effects resulting from treatment were observed. Our pilot study suggests that aggressive therapy of diabetic patients with hyperlipidemia may have a beneficial effect on background retinopathy.