Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) is characterized by severe hypercholesterolemia and premature coronary heart disease (CHD). The lower the plasma cholesterol level, the more likely it is that CHD can be prevented or retarded; aggressive cholesterol-lowering therapies may be indicated for FH patients with CHD. This study describes the long-term (6 years) safety and efficacy of intensive cholesterol-lowering therapies with low-density lipoprotein (LDL) apheresis in heterozygous FH patients with CHD. One hundred thirty heterozygous FH patients with CHD documented by coronary angiography had been treated by cholesterol-lowering drug therapy alone (n=87) or LDL apheresis combined with cholesterol-lowering drugs (n=43). Serum lipid levels and outcomes in each treatment group were compared after approximately 6 years. Both treatment groups had significant reductions in serum cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and high density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. LDL apheresis significantly reduced LDL cholesterol levels from 7.42+/-1.73 to 3.13+/-0.80 mmol/L (58%) compared with group taking drug therapy, from 6.03+/-1.32 to 4.32+/-1.53 mmol/L (28%). With Kaplan-Meier analyses of the coronary events including nonfatal myocardial infarction, percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty, coronary artery bypass grafting, and death from CHD, the rate of total coronary events was 72% lower in the LDL-apheresis group (10%) than in drug therapy group (36%) (p=0.0088). It is concluded that LDL-apheresis is effective as treatment of CHD in FH heterozygotes, and may become the therapy of choice in severe types of FH.