A retrospective review was made of the bacteriological and medical records of patients with culture-confirmed pulmonary tuberculosis who attended the IRCCS San Matteo Polyclinic of Pavia, between 1990 and 2000. Altogether, 279 patients were included in the survey: 220 new cases and 59 prior treatment cases. Resistance to at least one drug, and resistance to both isoniazid and rifampicin (MDR) were more common among previously treated patients than among new cases (86.4% vs. 34.1%, and 44% vs. 5.9%, respectively). While the frequency of resistance to any drug showed no variation in the period examined, a trend toward a progressive decrease in the frequency of primary MDR-TB was observed (from 11.9% in 1990-1992 to 1.3% in 1998-2000). The level of resistance observed in our study suggests that all isolates of Mycobacterium tuberculosis should be tested for drug susceptibility, especially when obtained from patients who report a previous episode of the disease.