Activated vitamin D continues to be the major treatment for suppressing parathyroid hormone (PTH) levels in dialysis patients who have secondary hyperparathyroidism. Active vitamin D compounds are distinguished by their ability to bind with high affinity to vitamin D receptors (VDRs) not only in the parathyroid glands, but in cells throughout the body. Because of recent data showing that pulsatile, intravenous vitamin D treatment (calcitriol or paricalcitol) confers a survival advantage in the dialysis population, there is new interest in understanding the systemic effects of VDR activation, particularly in the predialysis stages of chronic kidney disease (CKD), where high mortality rates from cardiovascular disease have recently been documented. Previous underutilization of calcitriol treatment to control PTH levels in stages 3 and 4 CKD was often due to concerns about its potential for accelerating the progression of CKD as a consequence of hypercalcemia, hypercalciuria, or hyperphosphatemia. Vitamin D analogs with selective VDR activity (such as paricalcitol) have great potential for preventing parathyroid hyperplasia and bone loss in early CKD without adversely affecting kidney function. Whether they also reduce cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in early CKD, as they appear to do in dialysis patients, remains to be determined.