Long-term ambulatory Holter-monitoring was used to evaluate the arrhythmogenic effects of beta 2-agonist therapy, alone and in combination with a xanthine derivative, theophylline or enprofylline. Twenty patients (mean age 51 years) with mild-to-moderate obstructive lung disease (bronchial asthma or chronic bronchitis), but without concomitant ischemic heart disease were studied. Compared with beta 2-agonist therapy alone, both combined regimens were associated with a small but significant increase in the frequency of ventricular arrhythmias. Few serious arrhythmias were observed, however, and the clinical significance of these findings is thought to be minor. Although adenosine has been suggested to have an antiarrhythmic effect, a difference between theophylline and enprofylline in the effect on adenosine (theophylline but not enprofylline being an adenosine antagonist) would appear to be of less cardiac relevance in patients without ischemic heart disease.