The feasibility and precision of clinical trials for the treatment of MS must be improved. Subsequent to the approval by the Food and Drug Administration of the United States of interferon beta-Ib as a safe and effective, though not curative, treatment for relapsing-remitting MS, the testing of other agents in this disease has been undertaken or is anticipated. This report summarises the discussions and recommendations of an international workshop held to review critically the elements of current MS therapeutic trials and to identify the most important aspects of clinical evaluation, study design and data analysis that would allow agents for MS to be tested as accurately, rapidly and economically as possible. While acknowledging the many uncertainties about the pathophysiology and natural history of MS, the workshop participants made recommendations about the preferred components to be used in the design of trials which may be different depending on the treatment goal and agent studied. It was concluded that the formulation of a useful clinical trial design must be based on specific guidelines for clinical scales and imaging for which task forces were recommended and subsequently appointed.