The efficacy of the oral leukotriene-receptor antagonist zafirlukast was assessed as maintenance therapy for patients with mild-to-moderate asthma. A total of 762 patients aged 12 to 76 years were enrolled in a 13-week, multicenter, double-masked, placebo-controlled, parallel-group trial and randomly assigned to receive either zafirlukast (20 mg twice daily) or placebo. Patients were maintained on as-needed beta-agonist therapy throughout the study and had to have a cumulative daytime asthma symptoms score > or = 8 (on a daily scale of 0 to 3) over 7 consecutive days before randomization. Efficacy was assessed by changes in symptoms, beta-agonist use, and pulmonary function. Safety was assessed by adverse experiences, laboratory test results, physical examination, and electrocardiography. Zafirlukast significantly decreased daytime asthma symptoms scores (-26.5%), nighttime awakenings (-19.8%), mornings with asthma (-29.0%), and beta-agonist use (-22.3%) and significantly increased morning peak expiratory flow rate (6.9%) and forced expiratory volume in 1 second (6.3%) compared with placebo. Changes in symptoms, beta-agonist use, and pulmonary function occurred within 2 days of zafirlukast treatment and continued throughout the trial. Zafirlukast was well tolerated. Pharyngitis and headache were the most common adverse events, occurring with similar frequency in both the zafirlukast and placebo groups. No clinically significant changes were observed in laboratory test results, findings on physical examination, or electrocardiographic findings. We conclude that zafirlukast produces early and sustained effects in the treatment of mild-to-moderate asthma.