Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a fatal disorder without an effective therapy to date. In a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial, 107 patients were prospectively evaluated for efficacy of a novel compound, pirfenidone. The difference in the change in the lowest oxygen saturation by pulse oximetry (SpO2) during a 6-minute exercise test, the primary endpoint, from baseline to 6 months was not significant between the two groups (p = 0.0722). In a prespecified subset of patients who maintained a SpO2 greater than 80% during a 6-minute exercise test at baseline, the lowest SpO2 improved during a 6-minute exercise test in the pirfenidone group at 6 and 9 months (p = 0.0069 and 0.0305, respectively). Positive treatment effect was demonstrated in secondary endpoints: (1) change in VC measurements at 9 months (p = 0.0366) and (2) episodes of acute exacerbation of IPF occurring exclusively in the placebo group during the 9 months (p = 0.0031). Significant adverse events were associated with pirfenidone; however, adherence to treatment regimen was similar between pirfenidone and placebo groups. In conclusion, treatment with pirfenidone improved VC and prevented acute exacerbation of IPF during the 9 months of follow-up. Future long-term studies are needed to clarify the overall safety and efficacy of pirfenidone in IPF.