The success of chelation therapy in controlling iron overload in patients with thalassemia major is highly variable and may partly depend on the rate of transfusional iron loading. Using data from the 1-year phase III study of deferasirox, including volumes of transfused red blood cells and changes in liver iron concentration (LIC) in 541 patients, the effect of iron loading on achieving neutral or negative iron balance was assessed in patients receiving different doses of deferasirox and the comparator deferoxamine. After dose adjustment, reductions in LIC after 1 year of deferasirox or deferoxamine therapy correlated with transfusional iron intake. At a deferasirox dose of 20 mg/kg per day, neutral or negative iron balance was achieved in 46% and 75% of patients with the highest and lowest transfusional iron intake, respectively; 30 mg/kg per day produced successful control of iron stores in 96% of patients with a low rate of transfusional iron intake. Splenectomized patients had lower transfusional iron intake and greater reductions in iron stores than patients with intact spleens. Transfusional iron intake should be monitored on an ongoing basis in thalassemia major patients, and the rate of transfusional iron loading should be considered when choosing the appropriate dose of an iron-chelating agent. This study is registered at http://clinicaltrials.gov as NCT00061750.