Heart failure is the most common cardiovascular reason for hospital admission for people older than 60 years of age. Few areas in medicine have progressed as remarkably as heart failure treatment over the past three decades. However, progress has been consistent only for chronic heart failure with reduced ejection fraction. In acutely decompensated heart failure and heart failure with preserved ejection fraction, none of the treatments tested to date have been definitively proven to improve survival. Delaying or preventing heart failure has become increasingly important in patients who are prone to heart failure. The prevention of worsening chronic heart failure and hospitalisations for acute decompensation is also of great importance. The objective of this Series paper is to provide a concise and practical summary of the available drug treatments for heart failure. We support the implementation of the international guidelines. We offer views on the basis of our personal experience in research areas that have insufficient evidence. The best possible evidence-based drug treatment (including inhibitors of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system and β blockers) is useful only when optimally implemented. However, implementation might be challenging. We believe that disease management programmes can be helpful in providing a multidisciplinary, holistic approach to the delivery of optimal medical care.