Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors may exacerbate anemia in patients with chronic renal failure, as well as in dialysis patients. To better answer this question, a prospective, crossover study was conducted to evaluate the effect of ACE inhibitors on recombinant human erythropoietin (rHuEPO) requirements in hemodialysis patients. Patients administered an ACE inhibitor when entering the study remained on this drug for the initial 4 months and were then switched to another antihypertensive agent for 4 more months. Patients not initially administered an ACE inhibitor were switched to lisinopril at 4 months. rHuEPO doses were adjusted using a sliding scale based on weekly laboratory hematocrit values. The inclusion criteria were met by 51 patients undergoing dialysis. Demographics were as follows: 61% were women, 64% were black, 46% had diabetes, average age was 53.2 +/- 13.3 years, and time on hemodialysis was 38.0 +/- 44.5 months. Thirty-three patients completed the study. Hematocrit averaged 32.7% +/- 1.9% while on ACE inhibitor therapy and 33.1% +/- 2.1% off ACE inhibitor therapy (P = 0.217). There was no difference in rHuEPO dose per treatment during each period (3,500 +/- 1,549 U on ACE inhibitor therapy versus 3,312 +/- 1,492 U off ACE inhibitor therapy; P = 0.300). No significant differences were found in degree of blood pressure control or various clinical and laboratory parameters that might be associated with rHuEPO resistance between the two periods. Similarly, no differences were found in hospitalization days, duration of infections, or transfusion requirements. These findings suggest that ACE inhibitors do not contribute to rHuEPO resistance in hemodialysis patients.