Administration of theophylline to asthmatic children is frequently associated with an adverse influence on their behavior. The efficacy and behavioral effects of the administration of high-dose theophylline (T) and ketotifen (K) in various combinations were evaluated prospectively in a double-blind, placebo controlled study in 55 children with moderately severe perennial asthma. During a baseline period of 2 weeks, theophylline (serum level of 10-20 μg/ml) was administered to all the children. After this period the patients were randomly allocated into four comparable groups. The children were treated during a 12-week period with: T + K-Placebo (T group); T + K (T + K group); half-dose T + K (T/ 2 + K group); or placebo of both T and K (P group). During the 12-week treatment period, as compared to the baseline period, only the three groups of children who received active therapy (T + P, T + K, T/2 + K) showed a similar reduction in the number of days with asthmatic symptomatology, improvement of the total asthmatic symptoms score, and increased PEFR. The behavioral activity of the children (assessed by the Conner's rating scale) improved significantly only in the groups receiving placebo or T/2 + K. The results of this study suggest that a combination therapy of half the recommended therapeutic dose of theophylline with ketotifen can be clinically as effective as therapy with a full dose of theophylline, but with significantly less adverse behavioral effects.