BACKGROUND: Renal transplant recipients experience adverse events attributed to corticosteroid therapy. METHODS: This was a multicenter, randomized, double-blind, 6-month, controlled steroid dose-reduction study in renal transplant recipients with an unblinded 6-month follow-up. In the low/stop arm, corticoste. roids were given at half the dosage of control for 3 months from the date of transplantation, and then withdrawn. Both arms received mycophenolate mofetil and cyclosporine. The primary endpoint was the incidence of biopsy-proven acute rejection at 6 months posttransplantation. RESULTS: There were 248 patients in the control group and 252 in the low/stop group. At 6 months the low/stop group had more biopsy-proven acute rejection episodes than the control (23% vs. 14%; P=0.008). At 12 months this increased to 25% vs. 15%. Most rejections were Banff grade I. Twelve-month graft loss was 5% in the low/stop group vs. 4% in the control. At 6 and 12 months serum cholesterol (P<0.01, P<0.01), triglycer. ides (P<0.01, P<0.01), and systolic blood pressure (P<0.001, P<0.001) were lower in the low/stop group. Diastolic pressure was lower (P<0.01) and lumbar spine bone density was greater (P<0.01) in the low/ stop group at 12 months. CONCLUSIONS: In renal transplant recipients treated with mycophenolate mofetil and cyclosporine, reduction and early withdrawal of the prophylactic corticosteroid dose is feasible without an unacceptable increase in serious rejection episodes. This is accompanied by a significant reduction of steroid-related adverse events.