The usefulness of an isotopic in vitro assay in the field was evaluated by comparing its results with the therapeutic response determined by the simplified WHO in vivo test in symptomatic Cameroonian patients treated with chloroquine. Of the 117 enrolled patients, 102 (87%) completed the 14-day follow-up, and 95 isolates obtained from these patients (46 children, 49 adults) yielded an interpretable in vitro test. A total of 57 of 95 patients (60%; 28 children and 29 adults) had an adequate clinical response with negative smears (n = 46) or with an asymptomatic parasitaemia (n = 11) on day 7 and/or day 14. The geometric mean 50% inhibitory concentration of the isolates obtained from these patients was 63.3 nmol/l. Late and early treatment failure was observed in 29 (30.5%) and 9 (9.5%) patients, respectively. The geometric mean 50% inhibitory concentrations of the corresponding isolates were 173 nmol/l and 302 nmol/l. Among the patients responding with late and early treatment failure, five isolates and one isolate, respectively, yielded a discordant result (in vivo resistance and in vitro sensitivity). The sensitivity, specificity, and predictive value of the in vitro test to detect chloroquine-sensitive cases was 67%, 84% and 86%, respectively. There was moderate concordance between the in vitro and in vivo tests (kappa value = 0.48). The in vitro assay agrees relatively well with the therapeutic response and excludes several host factors that influence the results of the in vivo test. However, in view of some discordant results, the in vitro test cannot substitute for in vivo data on therapeutic efficacy. The only reliable definition of "resistance" in malaria parasites is based on clinical and parasitological response in symptomatic patients, and the in vivo test provides the standard method to determine drug sensitivity or resistance as well as to guide national drug policies.