In eight patients with rheumatoid arthritis receiving racemic hydroxychloroquine, blood and urine concentrations of the enantiomers of hydroxychloroquine and its major metabolites were measured each month over the first 6 months of therapy. Plasma concentrations of hydroxychloroquine enantiomers were measured in five of these patients. In all patients, the blood concentration of (R)-hydroxychloroquine exceeded that of the (S)-enantiomer, the mean (R)/(S) ratio being 2.2 (range 1.6-2.9). A similar excess of (R)-hydroxychloroquine was found in the plasma, the mean (R)/(S) ratio being 1.6 (range 1.2-1.9). The mean enantiomer blood concentration ratio (R)/(S) for the metabolite desethylhydroxychloroquine was 0.45 (range 0.34-0.58) and for desethylchloroquine it was 0.56 (range 0.35-0.86) suggesting stereoselective metabolism of hydroxychloroquine. (S)-hydroxychloroquine had a mean (+/- s.d.) renal clearance from blood of 41 +/- 11 ml min-1, approximately twice that of (R)-hydroxychloroquine. The predicted unbound renal clearance was also higher for (S)-hydroxychloroquine. The clinical implications of enantioselective disposition of hydroxychloroquine are currently not known.