INTRODUCTION Diabetes mellitus is associated with increased cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. Areas covered: Main goal of hypolipidemic treatment in diabetic patients is low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) lowering with the use of statins. Addition of ezetimibe is useful in diabetic patients who cannot achieve their LDL-C target. However, many diabetic patients have increased residual CVD risk, which is mainly attributed to high triglycerides and low high-density lipoprotein (HDL-C) values. The addition of fenofibrate targets these variables and possibly reduces residual CVD risk, but a possible beneficial effect has been shown only in a pre-specified subgroup analysis in patients with high triglycerides and low HDL-C values. The newer proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 inhibitors lower substantially LDL-C levels, but data from specifically designed trials in diabetic patients are not currently available. Although the cholesterol ester transfer protein (CETP) inhibitors have shown harmful effects or lack of efficacy in completed clinical trials, the newer CETP inhibitors have promising effects on lipid profile and carbohydrate metabolism, but their effects on CVD risk and safety profile have not been assessed. Expert commentary: Clinicians have a range of pharmacological options to reduce the CVD risk of diabetic patients.