Ten anemic predialysis renal patients participated in a study to examine the long-term effects of recombinant human erythropoietin (r-HuEPO) treatment. The drug was initially given intravenously three times a week for 1 to 5 months, then by subcutaneous injections three times each week for 4 to 8 months, and finally by subcutaneous injection once weekly for 3 to 18 months. The duration of follow-up ranged from 11 to 29 months. Anemia was ameliorated in all participants. Mean hematocrit increased from a basal value of 26.8% to 35.1% during the intravenous phase and to 36.7% and 34.6% during the two subcutaneous periods. Mean weekly doses of erythropoietin (EPO) were 276 units/kg during intravenous therapy and 134 and 108 units/kg in the two subcutaneous periods. The differences in the doses were significant only between the intravenous and the two subcutaneous periods. Mean erythrocyte mass increased from a baseline value of 13.6 mL/kg to 20.4 mL/kg 8 months after initiation of treatment. Mean erythrocyte survival half-time was increased from 23 days before to 26 days, 8 months after r-HuEPO treatment, P less than 0.002. Mean blood pressure (mm Hg) was 105 before and 95 after treatment. Mean serum creatinine was 513 mumol/L (5.8 mg/dL) at the beginning of the study. At the time of this writing (11 to 29 months after treatment), seven patients have required dialysis treatment. There were three episodes of transient refractoriness to r-HuEPO documented during periods of infection and surgical procedures. All subjects tolerated the medication well, and no serious side effects attributable to the medication were noted. Furthermore, circulating antibodies against r-HuEPO were consistently negative.