Thirty-seven patients with biopsy proven mesangial IgA nephropathy were prospectively allocated to either two years of treatment with eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) 10 g per day or no treatment. At entry treated and untreated patients with renal dysfunction (Group A) or patients with normal serum creatinine less than 0.12 mmol/l (Group B) did not differ in serum creatinine, creatinine clearance, urinary protein excretion, or quantitative urinary red cell counts. Compliance with EPA therapy was excellent as assessed by plasma fatty acid profiles. At the end of the trial creatinine clearance in treated patients had gone from 80 +/- 16 to 57 +/- 17 ml/min (p less than 0.05) and in untreated patients from 76 +/- 18 to 55 +/- 14 (p less than 0.05). There were no beneficial effects in either Group A or Group B patients. The only two patients who had improvement in renal function were in the EPA treatment group. Although no side effects of treatment were noted, EPA does not alter the course of established mesangial IgA nephropathy.