Iloprost is a stable prostacyclin analogue with a pharmacokinetic profile allowing nebulised administration in patients with primary pulmonary hypertension (PPH). Inhaled iloprost is a potent acute pulmonary vasodilator with a duration of action of about 60 minutes. It may exert additional long-term benefit through antiproliferative and antithrombotic effects. Inhaled iloprost 2.5 or 5 microg six or nine times daily for 12 weeks (n = 101) significantly (p < 0.01) improved a combined clinical endpoint of a > or =10% increase in distance walked in 6 minutes and an improvement of > or =1 class in New York Heart Association functional class without clinical deterioration or death (16.8 versus 4.9% of placebo recipients, n = 102) in patients with severe PPH or selected forms of nonprimary pulmonary hypertension. Statistical analysis of the response for the PPH subgroup (20.8 versus 5.5% with placebo; n = 51 and 51) was not reported. Improvements from baseline in exercise capacity and haemodynamic/gas exchange variables have been reported in patients with PPH with continued use of inhaled iloprost. In addition, improvement in preinhalation vascular resistance occurred after 12 weeks of inhaled iloprost (p < 0.01 versus placebo) in a large randomised trial. Increased cough, headache, flushing and an influenza-like syndrome were the most common adverse events in the largest trial of patients receiving inhaled iloprost. Headache, flushing and jaw pain occurred significantly more frequently with inhaled iloprost than with placebo.