We conducted a prospective randomized study in which patients with biopsy-confirmed idiopathic membranous nephropathy were assigned to receive either a six-month course of prednisone given on alternate days (45 mg per square meter of body-surface area; n = 81) or no specific treatment (n = 77). The mean duration of follow-up was 48 months. Patients in the prednisone group (median age, 46 years) entered with a mean disease duration of 15 months, a median creatinine clearance of 1.2 ml per second per 1.73 m2 (range, 0.25 to 2.6), and a median rate of urinary protein excretion of 6.8 g per day (0.3 to 26). The annual change in the corrected creatinine clearance at six months did not differ between the prednisone group and the control group (0.10 vs. 0.06 ml per second; P = 0.8), or at the last follow-up evaluation (-0.07 vs. -0.02 ml per second; P = 0.2; 95 percent confidence interval on the difference, -0.03 to 0.13). The proportion of patients with complete remission of proteinuria was also similar in the groups at 6 and 12 months and after a mean of 48 months. Outcomes were similar in the two groups with respect to progression to renal failure (3 vs. 4 patients), death (3 vs. 1 patient), complete remission of proteinuria at 36 months (16 vs. 19 patients), and a decline of 25 percent or more in the creatinine clearance at 60 months (32 vs. 25 percent of patients). A multivariate analysis, which adjusted for differences at entry in sex distribution, urinary protein excretion, and creatinine concentration, as well as other prognostic variables, failed to provide an explanation for the lack of effect of prednisone. We conclude that a six-month course of therapy in which prednisone is given on alternate days is of no benefit to patients with idiopathic membranous nephropathy.