The effect of enalapril was evaluated in 67 patients with essential hypertension, and its therapeutic efficacy was compared with atenolol in a placebo run-in, single-blind, cross-over trial. Enalapril significantly reduced blood pressure in all grades of essential hypertension. As monotherapy it 'normalized' blood pressure in 88%, 50% and 25% of patients with mild, moderate and severe hypertension respectively. Optimal dose for most of the patients was 20 to 40 mg/day. Comparison with atenolol revealed almost parallel efficacy of the two drugs, although enalapril produced a significantly greater reduction in systolic blood pressure in patients with mild and moderate hypertension (P less than 0.01 in each group). No serious side effects were encountered with either drug. Enalapril, therefore, has a potent and slightly superior antihypertensive effect to that of atenolol, and may be used as a 'first-step' drug in the treatment of hypertensive patients.