Bleeding from oesophageal varices is still a lethal complication in cirrhotic patients with portal hypertension. Approximately 5–10% of patients with cirrhosis will develop oesophageal varices per year, and about 25–30% of cirrhotic patients with oesophageal varices and without previous variceal haemorrhage will bleed from ruptured varices. To date, data on preventing the formation/growth of oesophageal varices (preprimary prophylaxis) are conflicting, with insufficient evidence to use β-blockers. There is evidence for the need for primary prophylaxis, and both β-blockers and endoscopic variceal ligation have shown the same efficacy in preventing first bleeding, but which one to prefer is still controversial. The present article reviews the established and potential therapeutic strategies for preventing the development and rupture of oesophageal varices.