In Europe, cardiovascular disease (CVD) represents the main cause of morbidity and mortality, costing countries euro 190 billion yearly (2006). CVD prevention remains unsatisfactory across Europe largely due to poor control of CVD risk factors (RFs), growing incidence of obesity and diabetes, and sedentary lifestyle/poor dietary habits. Hypercholesterolaemia is a proven CVD RF, and LDL-C lowering slows atherosclerotic progression and reduces major coronary events. Lipid-lowering therapy is cost-effective, and intensive treatment of high-risk patients further improves cost effectiveness. In Italy, models indicate that improved cholesterol management translates into potential yearly savings of euro 2.9-4 billion. Identifying and eliminating legislative and administrative barriers is essential to providing optimal lipid care to high-risk patients. Public health and government policy can influence clinical practice rapidly, and guideline endorsement via national health policy may reduce the CVD burden and change physician and patient behaviour. Action to reduce CVD burden should ideally include the integration of strategies to lower the incidence of major CV events, improvement in total CV risk estimation, database monitoring of CVD trends, and development of population educational initiatives on CVD prevention. Failure to bridge the gap between science and health policy, particularly in relation to lipid management, could result in missed opportunities to reverse the burgeoning epidemic of CVD in Europe.