To test the effectiveness of 6-mercaptopurine (6-MP) in the treatment of Crohn's disease, we entered 83 chronically ill patients into a two-year double-blind study comparing 6-MP with placebo. Crossover data showed that improvement occurred in 26 of 39 courses of 6-MP (67%) as compared with three of 39 courses of placebo (8%) (P less than 0.001). Non-crossover data likewise confirmed the superiority of 6-MP. The drug was more effective than placebo in closing fistulas (31 vs 6%) and in permitting discontinuation or reduction of steroid dosage (75 vs. 36%) (P less than 0.001). The onset of response to 6-MP was often delayed, with 32% of patients taking longer than three months to respond, and 19% taking longer than four months. Adverse side effects to 6-MP occurred in 10% of patients and were uniformly reversible. We conclude that 6-MP is an effective and useful agent in the management of Crohn's disease.