Forty-seven patients with pulmonary sarcoidosis stage II-III, fulfilling clinical indications for starting treatment with corticosteroids, received oral methylprednisolone for 8 weeks in gradually decreasing doses (starting dose 48 mg per day). From week 5 onwards, they also received inhaled budesonide, 1.6 mg daily. Treatment was continued for 18 months and all patients have been followed for at least 3 years. At 18 months treatment could be discontinued in 38 patients, who had used individually adjusted doses of budesonide depending on the clinical response (reduced doses in 14, initial dose in 16, and increased doses in 8 patients). Budesonide treatment alone was satisfactory in 31 of these 38 cases. An additional seven patients could stop treatment after receiving supplementary courses of oral steroids for 3-12 months. Treatment is ongoing in 9 patients in which 6 have extrapulmonary manifestations requiring oral steroids. The chest radiograph became normal in 22 patients and improved in 14. Significant improvements were noted in FVC and DLco in relation to predicted normal values. Serum ACE, lysozyme and beta 2-microglobulin values decreased significantly. Transient cough was seen in 5 and hoarseness in 3 patients. No systemic side-effects were noted; one patient taking 2.4 mg budesonide daily had a plasma cortisol value below the normal range. Inhaled budesonide seems to offer an effective and safe alternative to oral steroids for long-term maintenance treatment of patients with pulmonary sarcoidosis.