The incidence of cytomegalovirus disease, the most important infectious complication of renal transplantation, was reduced in renal allograft recipients by a regimen of prophylactic high-dose oral acyclovir. To analyze the pharmacologic aspects of our prophylactic approach, we evaluated safety, pharmacodynamics, and in vitro susceptibility data. One hundred four recipients of cadaveric renal allografts received either oral acyclovir (n = 53) in doses of up to 3,200 mg/day or a placebo (n = 51) for 12 weeks posttransplant. Leukocyte count and serum creatinine were selected as markers of laboratory safety and were evaluated pretransplant, at study midpoint (creatinine only), and at study completion. Concentrations of acyclovir in plasma were determined to verify the ability of the dosing strategy to achieve predicted values. Viral resistance was assessed by calculation of in vitro 50% inhibitory concentrations (IC50s) of acyclovir for the cytomegalovirus strains collected from the subjects. Our results showed no difference in leukocyte count or serum creatinine between the acyclovir and placebo recipients. Plasma acyclovir concentrations were maintained within the expected limits and did not differ between patients who developed cytomegalovirus disease and those who did not. The mean acyclovir IC50s for cytomegalovirus isolates were 42.6 μmol/liter in the acyclovir recipients and 48 μmol/liter in the placebo recipients. We conclude that the clinical benefit of high-dose oral acyclovir therapy occurred despite plasma drug concentrations below the mean IC50 for the patient viral isolates. Furthermore, the use of the regimen did not produce leukopenia, adversely affect renal function, or alter the susceptibility of cytomegalovirus strains to acyclovir. This approach and dose adjustment scheme may be appropriate for other immunocompromised patients at risk for cytomegalovirus infection and disease.