Coenzyme Q10 (ubiquinone) the essential mitochondrial redox-component and endogenous antioxidant, packaged into the LDL + VLDL fractions of cholesterol, has been suggested as an important anti-risk factor for the development of atherosclerosis as explained by the oxidative theory. Forty-five hypercholesterolemic patients were randomized in a double-blind trial in order to be treated with increasing dosages of either lovastatin (20-80 mg/day) or pravastatin (10-40 mg/day) over a period of 18 weeks. Serum levels of coenzyme Q10 were measured parallel to the levels of cholesterol at baseline on placebo and diet and during active treatment. A dose-related significant decline of the total serum level of coenzyme Q10 was found in the pravastatin group from 1.27 +/- 0.34 at baseline to 1.02 +/- 0.31 mmol/l at the end of the study period (mean +/- S.D.), P < 0.01. After lovastatin therapy the decrease was significant as well and more pronounced, from 1.18 +/- 0.36 to 0.84 +/- 0.17 mmol/l, P < 0.001. Although HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors are safe and effective within a limited time horizon, continued vigilance of a possible adverse consequence from coenzyme Q10 lowering seems important during long-term therapy.