BACKGROUND: The aim of this study was to determine the impact of fenofibrate therapy on health care costs in middle-aged patients with type II diabetes at high risk of future cardiovascular events. METHODS: We undertook an economic analysis of the FIELD study conducted from the perspective of the third party payer (direct costs) with all "within trial" health care costs derived from reported clinical outcomes using pooled data from all 9795 study participants. All analyses were performed on an intention-to-treat-basis and items of expenditure were derived from 2001/2002 health economic data: comparing Diagnostic Related Groupings (DRG) costs of major morbid events from an average of unit costs derived from three European countries (UK, France and Germany). RESULTS: Despite the additional cost of applying fenofibrate therapy, that was off-set slightly by a reduced need for supplementary lipid-lowering therapy (a net cost increase of 20,495 Euros per 1000 person years to apply combined lipid-lowering therapy), fenofibrate was associated with a net saving of 23,607 Euros in health care costs per 1000 person years of follow-up. This represents an approximate 10% net saving in health care costs (total of 227,111 versus 203,415 Euros for the placebo and treatment groups, respectively). As such, based on the 95% CI calculated for observed event rates per 1000 person years at risk, the cost impact of fenofibrate therapy ranged from a 24% net saving to a 4% net increase in health care costs relative to treatment with placebo. When the highest compared to lowest DRG unit costs were applied to observed event rates, the cost impact of fenofibrate therapy varied from a 5% to 12% net saving (low versus high cost health care models) in health care costs relative to usual care. CONCLUSION: The robust nature of these analyses suggest potential cost advantages in the longer-term by applying fenofibrate in this type of patient cohort (quite possibly in combination with statin therapy) via a marked reduction in costly cardiac events and procedures.