A 2-year, placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover study was started in 1992 to evaluate cladribine, an immunosuppressive drug, in the treatment of chronic progressive multiple sclerosis. In the first year patients were given cladribine 0.10 mg/kg per day for 7 days as four monthly courses for a total of 2.8 mg/kg or placebo. During the second year patients treated with placebo during the first year were given i.v. infusions of 0.10 mg, 0.05 mg, and 0.05 mg of cladribine per kg of body weight per day for 7 consecutive days in three successive monthly courses, for a total dose of 1.4 mg/kg. Patients who had been treated previously with cladribine were crossed over to placebo. Analysis of the results revealed a favorable influence on the neurological performance scores, both in the Kurtze extended disability status and the Scripps neurological rating scale, and on MRI findings in patients treated with cladribine. In the first year the most striking finding was that while clinical deterioration continued in the placebo-treated patients, the condition of patients who received cladribine stabilized or even improved slightly. Toxicity and therapeutic response were dose-related.