Prednisone has been shown to improve strength in Duchenne dystrophy. Azathioprine often benefits corticosteroid-responsive diseases and can reduce the dose of prednisone needed. The present study reports a randomized, controlled trial of prednisone and azathioprine designed to assess the longer-term effects of prednisone and to determine whether azathioprine alone, or in combination with prednisone, improves strength. Ninety-nine boys (aged five to 15 years) with Duchenne dystrophy were randomized to one of three groups: (I) placebo; (II) prednisone 0.3 mg/kg/d; or (III) prednisone 0.75 mg/kg/d. After 6 months, azathioprine 2 to 2.5 mg/kg/d was added in groups I and II and placebo added in group III. The study showed that the beneficial effect of prednisone (0.75 mg/kg/d) is maintained for at least 18 months and is associated with a 36% increase in muscle mass. There was weight gain, growth retardation, and other side effects. Azathioprine did not have a beneficial effect. This study suggests that prednisone's beneficial effect is not due to immunosuppression.