To determine whether the chelation of aluminium enhances the haemopoietic response to recombinant human erythropoietin (r-HuEPO), desferrioxamine (DFO) at a dose of 20–30 mg/kg was given to 7 of 17 transfusion-dependent haemodialysis patients treated with r-HuEPO (40 units/kg/dialysis i.v.). The two randomly allocated groups did not differ in age, initial haemoglobin, plasma aluminium, plasma aluminium after DFO challenge, and ferritin, but, by chance, dialysis time was longer in the DFO group (69 vs. 32 months; p = 0.02). DFO was administered for 16 ± 4 (SE) dialyses. During this period, Hb rose faster in the DFO group, in relation to time (0.61 vs. 0.29 g/l/day; p < 0.05) and r-HuEPO dose (3.35 vs. 1.88 g/l/100 units r-HuEPO/kg; p < 0.05). However, in the DFO group, there was a high incidence of side effects, especially visual toxicity. It is concluded that DFO enhances the effectiveness of r-HuEPO in correcting the anaemia of chronic renal failure, but the combination of DFO and r-HuEPO is unsafe under the conditions described.