Didanosine, like zidovudine, stavudine and lamivudine, is a nucleoside analogue reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NRTI). In the target cell for HIV, didanosine is converted to its active moiety, dideoxyadenosine-5'-triphosphate (ddATP), which inhibits HIV reverse transcriptase and terminates viral DNA growth. It is now well established that didanosine therapy produces beneficial effects on virological and immunological markers of HIV disease and improves clinical outcome in adults or children with HIV infection. In numerous clinical trials, pronounced and sustained decreases in plasma HIV RNA levels and increases in CD4+ cell counts occurred in previously untreated or antiretroviral therapy-experienced patients treated with didanosine in combination with at least 1 other antiretroviral drug; zidovudine, stavudine, lamivudine, nevirapine, nelfinavir and hydroxyurea (hydroxycarbamide) are among the drugs that have been given in combination with didanosine. Of note, HIV RNA levels decreased to below the limits of detection in some patients receiving triple or dual therapy with didanosine-containing regimens. In double-blind, placebo-controlled trials, triple therapy with didanosine, zidovudine and nevirapine was significantly more effective than dual therapy with various combinations of these agents in improving surrogate disease markers in treatment-naive patients and in delaying disease progression or death in treatment-experienced patients with advanced disease. Improvements in virological and immunological markers were greater with didanosine-containing triple regimens than with dual therapy or monotherapy in comparative trials. Triple therapy with didanosine, stavudine and indinavir showed efficacy similar to that of various other triple therapy regimens in nonblind comparative trials. Comparator regimens included combinations of stavudine, lamivudine plus indinavir, zidovudine, lamivudine plus indinavir and didanosine, stavudine and nevirapine. Combination therapy with didanosine plus hydroxyurea as dual therapy or with a third agent produced marked and sustained decreases in HIV RNA levels in the plasma and in lymph nodes. Combination therapy with didanosine and zidovudine delays disease progression and prolongs survival in patients with intermediate or advanced HIV infection. In large, randomised, double-blind, clinical trials, dual therapy with didanosine plus zidovudine was significantly more effective than zidovudine monotherapy in preventing disease progression and prolonging survival in previously untreated or antiretroviral therapy-experienced patients with intermediate or advanced HIV infection. Pancreatitis and peripheral neuropathy are serious adverse effects of didanosine. These effects are dose-related and usually reversible after discontinuation of treatment. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and/or abdominal pain have been reported in patients receiving treatment with the drug. Didanosine is an effective and generally well tolerated drug in previously untreated and antiretroviral therapy-experienced patients with HIV infection. Given once or twice daily, it has an important role as a component of triple combination regimens for the treatment of patients with symptomatic or asymptomatic HIV infection.