Lovastatin and bezafibrate have proved effective in lowering low-density-lipo-protein (LDL) cholesterol and elevating high-density-lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. We compared their tolerability, safety, and effects on lipoproteins and urinary mevalonate excretion in a short-term study. Forty patients with primary hypercholesterolemia were enrolled in a single-blind randomized study with a diet/placebo period of 8 weeks and a treatment period of 12 weeks. Twenty patients received lovastatin (final average dose 70.5 mg/day), and 20 patients received bezafibrate 400 mg/day. LDL cholesterol was lowered by 35% (from 323 to 208 mg/dl) with lovastatin and by 8% (from 289 to 264 mg/dl) with bezafibrate. HDL cholesterol increased by 21 and 20% with lovastatin and bezafibrate, respectively. Twenty-four-hour urinary mevalonic acid output decreased by 37% during treatment with lovastatin and by 2% during treatment with bezafibrate. Thus, the lowering of cholesterol by lovastatin, but not by bezafibrate, can be attributed to inhibition of HMG CoA (3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A) reductase. Both lovastatin and bezafibrate are well tolerated.