Ten patients with active acromegaly, six with a poor response to previous therapies and four newly diagnosed, were treated with the long-acting somatostatin analog octreotide (Sandostatin; 200-500 micrograms/day, sc, twice or three times daily) for 6-15 months. There was rapid clinical improvement in all patients. The mean daily serum GH concentration was reduced by 64% and was normalized (all GH values less than 2 micrograms/L) in three patients. Serum insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) concentrations were lowered by 40% and were normalized in eight patients. Serum concentrations of the amino-terminal propeptide of type III procollagen (PIIINP), an index of tissue collagen metabolism, were reduced by 40% and were normalized in all patients with initially elevated values. There was a statistically significant positive correlation between the mean serum GH and IGF-I levels (r = 0.47; P less than 0.001) as well as between serum GH and PIIINP levels (r = 0.34; P less than 0.05) and between serum IGF-I and PIIINP (r = 0.50; P less than 0.001). The effects of octreotide on pituitary tumor size and pathology were evaluated in one patient. The therapy did not seem to be associated with significant changes in sellar computed tomographic scans or light microscopic findings. The drug was generally well tolerated. However, indications of significant hepato-biliary dysfunction were noted in one patient after 5 months of therapy. This was reversible upon discontinuation of therapy and did not occur later during the rechallenge with a lower dose of the drug. However, there was probably newly formed cholelithiasis in four patients during the therapy. Our study suggests that octreotide is an effective and relatively safe new approach for treating active acromegaly. Further studies are needed to investigate long term effects on the hepatobiliary system.