We assessed the safety and efficacy of pulse therapy with terbinafine tablets in 55 patients with dermatophytic onychomycosis. One pulse consisted of oral terbinafine tablets (500 mg day−1) given for 1 week usually followed by a 3-week interval. This regimen was repeated twice. Topical 1% terbinafine cream was applied daily. Efficacy was assessed based on both clinical and mycological examinations 1 year after treatment initiation. We observed a complete cure in 41 patients (74.5%), marked improved in three patients (5.6%), slight improvement in three patients (5.6%) and drop out in six patients (10.7%). Two patients (3.6%) discontinued terbinafine because of gastrointestinal disturbance (one patient) and drug-induced eruption (one patient). No patient had abnormal laboratory findings, including liver function tests. In summary, a regimen of three pulses of terbinafine therapy given daily for 1 week in combination with topical application of terbinafine cream appears to be safe and effective in treating dermatophytic onychomycosis and offers advantages in convenience and cost-effectiveness compared with continuous dosing.