The safety and pharmacokinetics of colistin were determined after first dose (n = 30) and again under steady-state conditions (n = 27) in 31 patients with cystic fibrosis receiving the drug as a component of their treatment for an acute pulmonary exacerbation of their disease. Patients ranged in age from 14 to 53 years and received colistin for 6 to 35 days. Each patient was started on colistin 5 to 7 mg/kg/day administered intravenously in three equally divided doses. Elimination half-life (t1/2), mean residence time (MRT), steady-state volume of distribution (Vdss), total body clearance (Cl), and renal clearance (Clr) after first-dose administration averaged 3.4 hours, 4.4 hours, 0.09 l/kg, and 0.35 and 0.24 ml/min/kg, respectively. No differences in colistin disposition characteristics between first-dose and steady-state evaluations were observed. Sputum sampling was incomplete and confounded by previous aerosol administration but revealed colistin concentrations that markedly exceeded observed plasma concentrations. Twenty-one patients experienced one or more side effects attributed to colistin administration. The most common reactions involved reversible neurologic manifestations, including oral and perioral paresthesias (n = 16), headache (n = 5), and lower limb weakness (n = 5). All of these apparent colistin-induced neurologic adverse effects, though bothersome, were benign and reversible. Intermittent proteinuria was observed on urinalysis in 14 patients, and 1 patient developed reversible, colistin-induced nephrotoxicity. No relationship between the occurrence of any colistin-associated adverse effect and plasma colistin concentration or colistin pharmacokinetic parameter estimate was observed. These data provide no basis for routine monitoring of colistin plasma concentrations to guide dosing for patient safety and suggest slow upward dose titration to minimize the incidence and severity of associated side effects.