The use of spironolactone in the treatment of hypertension has been limited by the occurrence of sexual side effects, mainly menstrual disturbances in women and gynaecomastia in men. In order to minimize this limitation on the use of an effective potassium-sparing antihypertensive agent, two strategies can be proposed: (1) A decrease in the daily dose of spironolactone. In 182 patients with essential hypertension treated with spironolactone alone for a mean follow-up period of 23 months, daily doses of 75-100 mg were as effective on blood pressure as doses of 150-300 mg. In contrast, the development of gynaecomastia--91 cases among 699 men--was dose-related in 6.9% (50 mg/day) to 52.2% (150 mg or more/day) of the cases. (2) An improvement in the receptor-binding specificity of spironolactone. Three 9 alpha, 11 alpha-epoxy derivatives have been characterized in vitro in rats and in rabbits. They exhibited a 3- to 10-fold decrease of the antiandrogenic and progestagenic effect, compared with spironolactone. In humans, one of these derivatives counteracted the fall in urinary Na/K ratio induced by 9 alpha-fluorohydrocortisone at a 25 mg dose.