Aims. To investigate whether an interaction between diltiazem and the 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase inhibitor simvastatin may enhance the cholesterol-lowering response to simvastatin in diltiazem-treated patients. Methods. One hundred and thirty-five patients attending the Sheffield hypertension clinic who started consecutively on simvastatin for primary or secondary prevention of coronary heart disease (CHD) during the 2 years June, 1996-May 1998 were surveyed. From the clinic records we extracted and recorded absolute and percentage cholesterol responses to the starting dose of simvastatin and coprescription of diltiazem. Results. The cholesterol reduction for the 19 patients on diltiazem was 33.3% compared with 24.7% in the remaining 116 patients (median difference 8.6%, 95% CI 1.1-12.2%, P < 0.02). The interindividual variability of cholesterol response to simvastatin was greater for patients not taking diltiazem than for those patients taking diltiazem. The ratio of the variances in response for the nondiltiazem group relative to the diltiazem group was 1.34 at 10 mg simvastatin daily (not significant, 95% CI 0.16-4.11), and 3.42 at 20 mg daily (P < 0.01, 95% CI 1.26-7.18). Concurrent diltiazem therapy (P < 0.04), age (P = 0.001) and starting dose of simvastatin (P = 0.002) were found to be significant independent predictors of percentage cholesterol response. Conclusions. Patients who take both simvastatin and diltiazem may need lower doses of simvastatin to achieve the recommended reduction in cholesterol. The pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic aspects of this interaction need further study to confirm an enhanced effect on cholesterol reduction, and exclude an increased risk of adverse events.