Despite the spread of chloroquine-resistant Plasmodium falciparum throughout sub-Saharan Africa, chloroquine (CQ) remains the first-line treatment for uncomplicated infection in most countries. To assess the efficacy of CQ and sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) in Zambia, studies using a standardized 14-day in vivo test were conducted at 6 geographically representative sites. Febrile children < or = 5 years of age were treated with standard doses of CQ or SP and monitored for parasitological failure (using modified WHO criteria) and clinical failure (fever with parasitaemia after completion of therapy). RII/RIII (high to moderate level) parasitological failures were identified in 34% to 70% of CQ-treated children (total N = 300) at the 6 sites and clinical failures in 31% to 48%. SP testing at 2 sites identified RII/RIII failures in 3% and 17% of children and only 1 clinical failure at each site. Because of the high levels of CQ resistance identified in these trials, the Ministry of Health of Zambia convened a national consensus meeting which recommended that Zambia's national malaria treatment policy be modified to make SP available at all health facilities for use in persons who fail initial therapy with CQ. In addition, selected sites, staff, and the methodology from these studies were used to implement a sentinel surveillance system for antimalarial drug efficacy. This systematic approach to antimalarial drug efficacy testing could be easily replicated in other countries seeking to reassess their malaria treatment policies.