Daily prednisone improves strength in boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, but side effects are almost universal. We used a different dosing regimen of prednisone to determine if benefit to boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy might be maintained with fewer side effects. Twice weekly oral prednisone was given each Friday and Saturday (5mg/kg/dose). This total dose is twice as high as the daily low dosage prednisone regimen (0.75 mg/kg/day). Twenty boys (8.0+/-1.2 years) were treated. Historical control groups included 18 untreated boys (6.1+/-1.6 years) and four boys (7.3+/-0.6 years) treated with daily prednisone. Strength (using a hand-held manometer and grip meter) and timed functional testing were measured. There was an improvement in upper extremity strength for 95% of boys (n=20) at 6 months using quantitative strength testing. Improvement in lower extremity strength occurred in all boys with antigravity quadriceps strength (17/17). The improvement (P=0.001 for proximal upper extremities; P=0.002 for grip; and P<0.0001 for proximal lower extremities) was significant compared to untreated boys. Sixteen boys were treated continuously for more than 12 months (22+/-1.5 months). Of these, 15 remained significantly stronger than prior to treatment and 8/16 showed additional gains in strength after six months of treatment. Six boys were on the weekly prednisolone 2 years or longer without interruption. All six had upper and lower extremity strength at follow-up that was as good or better than at baseline. Functional testing improved in boys less than 8 years without contractures. Three boys without antigravity quadriceps strength at the start of treatment lost the ability to walk unassisted within 6 months. Eight other boys lost the ability to ambulate unassisted between 12 and 24 months of treatment. In each, progressive contractures developed. Linear growth was maintained in all boys on weekly treatment. Obesity rates did not differ from untreated boys. Twice weekly prednisone improved strength over 6-12 months in the majority of boys, but did not slow contracture development. Sustained benefit beyond 12 months is possible with fewer side effects compared to daily prednisone.