Forty patients with steroid-dependent idiopathic nephrotic syndrome (INS), a mean follow-up of 5.5 years, and a mean number of relapses of ten were blindly assigned to either deflazacort (DFZ) (n = 20) or prednisone (PDN) (n = 20) according to a ratio of equivalence of DFZ/ PDN = 0.8. This treatment was given for 1 year. The number of relapses was significantly lower in patients receiving DFZ. After 1 year, 12 remained in remission with DFZ compared with 2 with PDN. Growth velocity was not different in the two groups. Bone mineral content, assessed by quantitative computed tomography of L1 L2 vertebrae, decreased after 1 year by 6% in the DFZ group versus 12% in the PDN group (NS). The mean body weight increase of +3.9 +/- 4.1 kg in the PDN group was higher than that of the DFZ group, +1.7 +/- 2.8 kg (P = 0.06). Cushingoid symptoms tended to be less after 12 months in the DFZ group. In conclusion, this study shows that DFZ was more effective than PDN in limiting relapses in steroid-dependent INS, and that cushingoid symptoms, weight gain, and decrease in bone mineral content tended to be less marked with this drug than with PDN.