Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease slowly progresses to end-stage renal disease and has no effective therapy. A pilot study suggested that the somatostatin analogue octreotide longacting release (LAR) could be nephroprotective in this context. We aimed to assess the effect of 3 years of octreotide-LAR treatment on kidney and cyst growth and renal function decline in participants with this disorder. We did an academic, multicentre, randomised, single-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group trial in five hospitals in Italy. Adult (>18 years) patients with estimated glomerular filtration rate (GFR) of 40 mL/min per 1·73 m(2) or higher were randomly assigned (central allocation by phone with a computerised list, 1:1 ratio, stratified by centre, block size four and eight) to 3 year treatment with two 20 mg intramuscular injections of octreotide-LAR (n=40) or 0·9% sodium chloride solution (n=39) every 28 days. Study physicians and nurses were aware of the allocated group; participants and outcome assessors were masked to allocation. The primary endpoint was change in total kidney volume (TKV), measured by MRI, at 1 year and 3 year follow-up. Analyses were by modified intention to treat. This study is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT00309283. Recruitment was between April 27, 2006, and May 12, 2008. 38 patients in the octreotide-LAR group and 37 patients in the placebo group had evaluable MRI scans at 1 year follow-up, at this timepoint, mean TKV increased significantly less in the octreotide-LAR group (46·2 mL, SE 18·2) compared with the placebo group (143·7 mL, 26·0; p=0·032). 35 patients in each group had evaluable MRI scans at 3 year follow-up, at this timepoint, mean TKV increase in the octreotide-LAR group (220·1 mL, 49·1) was numerically smaller than in the placebo group (454·3 mL, 80·8), but the difference was not significant (p=0·25). 37 (92·5%) participants in the octreotide-LAR group and 32 (82·1%) in the placebo group had at least one adverse event (p=0·16). Participants with serious adverse events were similarly distributed in the two treatment groups. However, four cases of cholelithiasis or acute cholecystitis occurred in the octreotide-LAR group and were probably treatment-related. These findings provide the background for large randomised controlled trials to test the protective effect of somatostatin analogues against renal function loss and progression to end-stage kidney disease. Polycystic Kidney Disease Foundation. Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.