In a group of 120 patients with heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) the influence of the apolipoprotein E (apoE) polymorphism on pre-treatment plasma lipid levels and on the response to treatment with simvastatin was studied. The apoE phenotype distribution did not differ significantly between the FH group and a sample group of the Dutch population. Differences in pre-treatment lipid levels were not related to the apoE polymorphism in this FH population. After 12 weeks use of a daily dose of 40 mg simvastatin, the plasma total cholesterol, low density lipoprotein (LDL)-cholesterol and plasma triglyceride levels were reduced on average by 33%, 38% and 19%, respectively. At the same time high density lipoprotein (HDL)-cholesterol concentration increased on average by 7%. In the combined FH patient group (males and females) a considerable interindividual variation in response to simvastatin was observed, but was not related to the apoE polymorphism. However, considering males and females separately, we found that female FH patients with the apoE3E3 phenotype responded better on simvastatin treatment with respect to LDL-cholesterol than male FH patients with the apoE3E3 phenotype.