This double-blind, randomized, parallel-group comparative study investigated the phototoxic potential of gemifloxacin mesylate, a potent, novel fluoroquinolone antimicrobial. Forty healthy male and female volunteers received repeat dosing for 7 days with 160 mg or 320 mg of gemifloxacin (o.d., p.m.), 500 mg of ciprofloxacin (b.d.) or placebo (b.d.). On day 5 (large step) and day 6 (small step), graded series of wavebands were irradiated onto the back of each volunteer (phototesting). Skin reactions were assessed 0-30 min (immediate erythema) and 24 and 48 h (delayed erythema) after irradiation. Both gemifloxacin, 320 mg o.d., and ciprofloxacin, 500 mg b.d., were associated with mild phototoxicity following 7 days of administration. The range of mean phototoxic indices (the ratio of minimal erythemal dose at baseline compared with that on day 7 at the end of dosing) was 1.00-2.19 for gemifloxacin and 0.97-2.23 for ciprofloxacin. The abnormal responses occurred within the ultraviolet A region (335-365 +/-30 nm) and were maximal at 24 h. Susceptibility to phototoxicity had cleared 48 h after stopping the drug. The phototoxicity observed with gemifloxacin, 160 mg o.d., was lower than that at the higher dose and similar to that of placebo, suggesting that gemifloxacin phototoxicity is dose dependent. There were no clinically important changes in the safety profiles of gemifloxacin and ciprofloxacin compared with placebo in healthy volunteers after 7 days of repeat dosing. This study demonstrated that gemifloxacin, 320 mg o.d. given for 7 days, has a low potential to cause mild photosensitivity which is similar to that of ciprofloxacin, 500 mg b.d., given for the same period.