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In 2013 the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) released new guidelines on the management of stable coronary artery disease. These guidelines update and replace the previous ESC guidelines on the management of stable angina pectoris, issued in 2006. There are several new aspects in the 2013 ESC guidelines compared with the 2006 version. This opinion paper provides an in-depth interpretation of the ESC guidelines with regard to these issues, to help physicians in making evidence-based therapeutic choices in their routine clinical practice. The first new element is the definition of stable coronary artery disease itself, which has now broadened from a ‘simple' symptom, angina pectoris, to a more complex disease that can even be asymptomatic. In the first-line setting, the major changes in the new guidelines are the upgrading of calcium channel blockers, the distinction between dihydropyridines and non-dihydropyridine calcium channel blockers, and the presence of important statements regarding the combination of calcium channel blockers with beta-blockers. In the second-line setting, the 2013 ESC guidelines recommend the addition of long-acting nitrates, ivabradine, nicorandil or ranolazine to first-line agents. Trimetazidine may also be considered. However, no clear distinction is made among different second-line drugs, despite different quality of evidence in favour of these agents. For example, the use of ranolazine is supported by strong and recent evidence, while data supporting the use of the traditional agents appear relatively scanty.