The principal aim of the second EUROASPIRE survey was to determine in patients with established coronary heart disease whether the Joint European Societies' recommendations on coronary prevention are being followed in clinical practice. This survey was undertaken in 1999-2000 in 15 European countries: Belgium, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia, Sweden, Spain and the U.K., in selected geographical areas and 47 centres. Consecutive patients, men and women < or =70 years were identified retrospectively with the following diagnoses: coronary artery bypass graft, percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty, acute myocardial infarction and myocardial ischaemia. Data collection was based on a review of medical records and interview and risk assessment at least 6 months after hospital admission. 8181 medical records (25% women) were reviewed and 5556 patients (adjusted participation rate 76%) interviewed. Recording of risk factor history and risk factor measurement in hospital notes was incomplete, particularly for discharge documents. At interview (median time 1.4 years after hospital discharge), 21% of patients smoked cigarettes, 31% were obese, 50% had raised blood pressure (systolic blood pressure > or =140 mmHg and/or diastolic blood pressure > or =90 mmHg), 58% had elevated serum total cholesterol (total cholesterol > or =5 mmol x l(-1)) and 20% reported a medical history of diabetes. Glucose control in these diabetic patients was poor with 87% having plasma glucose >6.0 mmol x l(-1)and 72% > or =7.0 mmol x l(-1). Among the patients interviewed the use of prophylactic drug therapies on admission, at discharge and at interview was as follows: aspirin or other antiplatelets drugs 47%, 90% and 86%; beta-blockers 44%, 66% and 63%; ACE inhibitors 24%, 38% and 38%; and lipid-lowering drugs 26%, 43% and 61%, respectively. With the exception of antiplatelet drugs, wide variations in the use of prophylactic drug therapies exist between countries. This European survey of coronary patients shows a high prevalence of unhealthy lifestyles, modifiable risk factors and inadequate use of drug therapies to achieve blood pressure and lipid goals. There is considerable potential throughout Europe to raise the standard of preventive cardiology through more effective lifestyle intervention, control of other risk factors and optimal use of prophylactic drug therapies in order to reduce coronary morbidity and mortality. Copyright 2001 The European Society of Cardiology.