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BACKGROUND: A pilot programme to treat multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) was implemented in Karakalpakstan, Uzbekistan in 2003. This region has particularly high levels of MDR-TB, with 13% and 40% among new and previously treated cases, respectively. METHODOLOGY: This study describes the treatment process and outcomes for the first cohort of patients enrolled in the programme, between October 2003 and January 2005. Confirmed MDR-TB cases were treated with an individualised, second-line drug regimen based on drug susceptibility test results, while suspected MDR-TB cases were treated with a standardised regimen pending susceptibility results. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Of 108 MDR-TB patients, 87 were started on treatment during the study period. Of these, 33 (38%) were infected with strains resistant to at least one second-line drug at baseline, but none had initial ofloxacin resistance. Treatment was successful for 54 (62%) patients, with 13 (15%) dying during treatment, 12 (14%) defaulting and 8 (8%) failing treatment. Poor clinical condition and baseline second-line resistance contributed to treatment failure or death. Treatment regimens were changed in 71 (82%) patients due to severe adverse events or drug resistance. Adverse events were most commonly attributed to cycloserine, ethionamide and p-aminosalicylic acid. Extensively drug resistant TB (XDR-TB) was found among 4 of the 6 patients who failed treatment and were still alive in November 2006. CONCLUSIONS: While acceptable treatment success was achieved, the complexity of treatment and the development of XDR-TB among treatment failures are important issues to be addressed when considering scaling up MDR-TB treatment.