We undertook a study to determine whether there were differences in the quality of lipid management in patients with coronary artery disease (CAD) in 2 different practice settings (which represent different socioeconomic classes), and to determine the level of compliance with the National Cholesterol Education Program guidelines by academic physicians in managing patients with CAD. A retrospective cross-sectional study was performed using a systematic chart review of 270 medical records (131 from the cardiology clinic, 139 from the cardiology private practice) of patients with known CAD at an academic tertiary care center in New York City. The total proportion of patients with CAD having a lipid profile ordered in the clinic and private suite was 43%. Of these people, 22% had a low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) < or = 100 mg/dl and 54% had an LDL < or = 130 mg/dl (10% and 23% of the total population, respectively). The total proportion of patients taking lipid-lowering medications was 29%. When comparing the quality of treatment between the 2 settings, there were no statistically significant differences in the percentages of patients who had lipid profiles measured (40% clinic vs 47% private suite, p >0.10), in the percentage of patients with LDL < or = 130 mg/dl (50% clinic vs 57% private suite, p >0.10) or in the weighted percentage of patients taking lipid-lowering medications (29% clinic vs 48% private suite, p = 0.099). The performances of individual physicians, however, varied widely. The percentages of patients with lipid profiles measured by individual physicians ranged from 0% to 83%, while the percentages of patients on drug treatment by a physician ranged between 10% and 88%. These findings indicate that socioeconomic differences, represented by different practice settings, do not account for differences in the screening for, control of, or use of medications in managing hyperlipidemia. Rather, individual physicians are accountable for differences in lipid management.