Intervention in coronary artery disease is an area of cardiology where novel drugs, in the form of drug-eluting stents (DES), are being used increasingly commonly. DES are used across the whole range of coronary intervention, from stable angina patients with single or multivessel disease, acute coronary syndromes and acute myocardial infarction (i.e. primary angioplasty). Most recently, they are being tested in a particularly challenging subset of patients, those experiencing symptoms due to restenosis within a previously stented area of vessel (in-stent restenosis, ISR). This article summarises the rationale for the use of DES, across all these areas, focussing specifically on the emerging results of trials and registries examining the effectiveness of DES in acute myocardial infarction (AMI) and ISR. Drug-eluting stents represent a significant shift in the use of locally-delivered drugs in interventional cardiology. On the basis of encouraging trial data, including in the specific areas of in-stent restenosis and myocardial infarction, their use is becoming extremely widespread in place of bare-metal (drug-free) stents. This change is happening despite their high costs, relatively short follow-up data and concerns of possible unwanted effects, because of the weight of evidence that they are superior in preventing restenosis in many patient groups. This reduction is highly significant in angiographic terms and, to a lesser degree, in the prevention of clinically important restenosis requiring revascularisation, but not clearly in terms of overall mortality.