To provide novel data relating to the dispositions, effects, and toxicities of the artemisinin derivatives in severe malaria, we studied 30 Vietnamese adults with slide-positive falciparum malaria treated with intravenous artesunate. Twelve patients with complications (severe; group 1) and 8 patients without complications but requiring parenteral therapy (moderately severe; group 2) received 120 mg of artesunate by injection, and 10 patients with moderately severe complications (group 3) were given 240 mg by infusion. Serial concentrations of artesunate and its active metabolite dihydroartemisinin in plasma were measured by high-performance liquid chromatography. The time to 50% parasite clearance (PCT50) was determined from serial parasite densities. Full clinical (including neurological) assessments were performed at least daily. In noncompartmental pharmacokinetic analyses, group mean artesunate half-lives (t(1/2)) were short (range, 2.3 to 4.3 min). The dihydroartemisinin t(1/2) (range, 40 to 64 min), clearance (range, 0.73 to 1.01 liters/h/kg), and volume of distribution (range, 0.77 to 1.01 liters/kg) were also similar both across the three patient groups (P > 0.1) and to previously reported values for patients with uncomplicated malaria. Parasite clearance was prompt (group median PCT50 range 6 to 9 h) and clinical recovery was complete under all three regimens. These data indicate that the pharmacokinetics of artesunate and dihydroartemisinin are not influenced by the severity of malaria. Since the pharmacokinetic parameters for both artesunate and dihydroartemisinin were similar regardless of whether injection or infusion was used, artesunate can be considered a prodrug that is converted stoichiometrically to dhydroartemisinin. Conventional doses of artesunate are safe and effective when given to patients with complications of falciparum malaria.