Water retention and dilutional hyponatremia, mainly attributable to an impairment of free water excretion and increased vasopressin activity, are well-documented complications in cirrhotic patients with ascites. VPA-985 is a selective, nonpeptide, orally active, vasopressin-2–receptor antagonist. The aim of this study was to determine the pharmacodynamics, safety, and pharmacokinetics of ascending single doses (25, 50, 100, 200, and 300 mg) in cirrhotic patients with ascites in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Each dose level was studied in 5 patients (4 active and 1 placebo). After an overnight fast and fluid restriction (continued for 4 hours after dose administration), all patients were given placebo on baseline day and an oral suspension of VPA or placebo on the following day. VPA produced a significant dose-related increase in daily urine output (1,454 ± 858 mL to 4,568 ± 4,385 mL with VPA 300 mg) and a dose-related decrease in urine osmolality. The free water clearance reached greater than 3 mL/min for doses 100 mg or greater. Simultaneously, significant increases in serum osmolality, sodium, and vasopressin levels were found. There was a significant increase in sodium urine excretion. VPA was rapidly absorbed and maximum serum concentrations were achieved within 1 hour after administration. Elimination half-life ranged from 9.0 hours after 100 mg to 22.6 hours after 200 mg. In conclusion, VPA induced a dose-related aquaretic response, suggesting a therapeutic potential in managing water retention in patients with liver cirrhosis with ascites.