BACKGROUND: Although numerous clinical trials and economic analyses have established the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of lowering cholesterol for the prevention of coronary heart disease, there are few data on the role of raising high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) levels and lowering triglyceride levels. The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Cooperative Studies Program HDL-C Intervention Trial (VA-HIT) was a multicenter, randomized trial of gemfibrozil, an agent that raised HDL-C levels and lowered triglyceride levels, yet had no effect on low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) levels. The study showed that gemfibrozil therapy significantly reduced major cardiovascular events (cardiovascular death, myocardial infarction, and stroke) in patients with coronary heart disease, low HDL-C levels, and low LDL-C levels. OBJECTIVE: To report the results of a cost-effectiveness study based on the results of the VA-HIT. METHODS: The cost per year of life gained with gemfibrozil therapy was calculated. Hazard functions were estimated, and the resulting probabilities were used in a Markov model simulation to estimate the effect of gemfibrozil on life expectancy and costs over a simulated lifetime. Sensitivity analyses were used to account for uncertainty. RESULTS: Using the prices of gemfibrozil that were negotiated by the VA, gemfibrozil was cost saving. Using drug prices found outside the VA, a quality-adjusted life-year saved by gemfibrozil therapy cost between $6300 and $17 100. CONCLUSIONS: Gemfibrozil reduces major cardiovascular events in male coronary heart disease patients with low levels of HDL-C and low levels of LDL-C and would result in cost saving at annual drug costs of $100 or less in 1998 dollars. Even at the higher drug prices represented by the average wholesale price in the United States, the cost of a life-year saved is well below the threshold that would be deemed cost-effective. To our knowledge, this is the first economic analysis based on clinical trial data to assess the cost-effectiveness of raising HDL-C levels and lowering triglyceride levels in a setting in which LDL-C levels were not lowered.