Dietary phosphate restriction and the oral administration of calcium and aluminum salts have been the principal means of controlling hyperphosphatemia in individuals with end-stage renal disease over the past decade. Although relatively well-tolerated, a large fraction of patients treated with calcium develop hypercalcemia, particularly when administered concurrently with calcitriol, despite a lowering of the dialysate calcium concentration. We evaluated the efficacy of cross-linked poly[allylamine hydrochloride] (RenaGel; Geltex Pharmaceuticals, Waltham, MA), a nonabsorbable calcium- and aluminum-free phosphate binder, in a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial of 36 maintenance hemodialysis patients followed over an 8-week period. RenaGel was found to be as effective as calcium carbonate or acetate as a phosphate binder. The reduction in serum phosphorus was significantly greater after 2 weeks of treatment with RenaGel (6.6 +/- 2.1 mg/dL to 5.4 +/- 1.5 mg/dL) compared with placebo (7.0 +/- 2.1 mg/dL to 7.2 +/- 2.4 mg/dL; P = 0.037). There was no significant change in serum calcium concentration in either treatment group. The total serum cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol fraction were significantly reduced in RenaGel-treated patients compared with placebo-treated patients (P = 0.013 and P = 0.003, respectively) without a concomitant reduction in high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (P = 0.93). There was no difference among recipients of RenaGel and placebo in terms of adverse events. RenaGel is a safe and effective alternative to oral calcium for the management of hyperphosphatemia in end-stage renal disease.