Treatments for idiopathic membranous nephropathy, a common cause of nephrotic syndrome, can be very toxic. In view of the pathogenic potential of B cells in this disease, we studied the effects of four weekly infusions of rituximab (375 mg/m(2)-- the monoclonal antibody to B-cell antigen CD20--in eight patients who had idiopathic membranous nephropathy with persistent nephrotic syndrome. At weeks 4 and 20, urinary protein decreased from mean (SE) 8.6 g/24 h (1.4) to 3.8 (0.8) and 3.7 (0.9), respectively (p<0.0001). At week 20, albuminuria and albumin fractional clearance decreased by 70% and 65%, and serum albumin increased by 31%. CD20 B lymphocytes fell below normal ranges up to study end. The short-term risk-benefit profile of rituximab seems more favourable to that of any other immunosuppressive drug used to treat idiopathic membranous nephropathy.