In patients with thalassemia intermedia in whom hyperabsorption of iron may result in serious organ dysfunction, an orally effective iron- chelating drug would have major therapeutic advantages, especially for the many patients with thalassemia intermedia in the Third World. We report reduction in tissue iron stores and normalization of serum ferritin concentration after 9-month therapy with the oral chelator 1,2- dimethyl-3-hydroxypyrid-4-one (L1) in a 29-year-old man with thalassemia intermedia and clinically significant iron overload (SF 2,174 micrograms/L, transferrin saturation 100%; elevated AST and ALT, abnormal cardiac radionuclide angiogram) who was enrolled in the study with L1 75 mg/kg/day after he refused deferoxamine therapy. L1-Induced 24-hour urinary iron excretion during the first 6 months of therapy was (mean +/- SD, range) 53 +/- 30 (11 to 109) mg (0.77 mg/kg), declining during the last 3 months of L1 to 24 +/- 14 (13–40) mg (0.36 mg/kg), as serum ferritin decreased steadily to normal range (present value, 251 micrograms/L). Dramatic improvement in signal intensity of the liver and mild improvement in that of the heart was shown by comparison of T1- weighted spin echo magnetic resonance imaging with images obtained immediately before L1 administration was observed after 9 months of L1 therapy. Hepatic iron concentration decreased from 14.6 mg/g dry weight of liver before L1 therapy to 1.9 mg/g liver after 9 months of therapy. This constitutes the first report of normalization of serum ferritin concentration in parallel with demonstrated reduction in tissue iron stores as a result of treatment with L1. Use of L1 as a therapeutic option in patients with thalassemia intermedia and iron overload appears warranted.