Intravenous cyclosporine has proven to be an alternative to emergency colectomy in steroid-refractory ulcerative colitis, whereas the experience with FK506 is limited. In this report we compare intravenous to oral FK506 treatment in 38 patients with refractory ulcerative (n = 33) or indeterminate (n = 5) colitis. FK506 was started intravenously in the first group (n = 18) at a dose of 0.01 to 0.02 mg/kg up to 14 days, followed by 0.1 to 0.2 mg/kg orally, or was started orally at this dose in a second group (n = 20). Additional azathioprine/6-mercaptopurine was given and steroids were tapered in responding patients, followed by a dose reduction of FK506. Clinical disease activity and laboratory parameters were assessed to evaluate efficacy and safety. Primary objectives were the induction of remission (Truelove index of mild) and colectomy-free survival. Treatment lasted for a mean of 7.6 months, and the mean observation period was 16.2 months. Eighteen of 38 patients improved within 14 days, and a complete remission was achieved in 13 patients after 1 month. A colectomy within 1 month was performed in 3 of 38 patients. The overall colectomy rate was 34%. One-half of the patients with a minimum follow-up of 2 years required a colectomy. Intravenous and per oral administration were equally safe and effective. The most frequent adverse events included tremor, hyperglycemia, hypertension, and infection, but none were severe. Renal impairment was rare and subsided upon drug withdrawal. In conclusion, FK506 is effective in the treatment of refractory colitis with per oral dosing being equivalent to intravenous administration.