At present, the only iron (Fe) chelator in clinical use for the treatment of Fe overload disease is the tris-hydroxamate deferoxamine (DFO). However, DFO suffers from a number of disadvantages, including the need for subcutaneous infusion (12 to 24 hours a day, 5 or 6 times per week), its poor intestinal absorption, and high cost. Therefore, there is an urgent need for an efficient, economical, and orally effective Fe chelator. Pyridoxal isonicotinoyl hydrazone (PIH) is a tridentate Fe-chelating agent that shows high Fe chelation efficacy both in vitro in cell culture models and also in vivo in rats and mice. In addition, this chelator is relatively non-toxic, economical to synthesize, and orally effective, and it shows high selectivity and affinity for Fe. However, over the last 10 years the development of PIH and its analogs has largely been ignored because of justifiable interest in other ligands such as 1,2-dimethyl-3-hydroxypyrid-4-one (L1). Unfortunately, recent clinical trials have shown that significant complications occur with L1 therapy, and it is controversial whether this chelator is effective at reducing hepatic Fe levels in patients. Because of the current lack of a clinically useful Fe chelator to replace DFO, PIH and its analogs appear to be potential candidate compounds that warrant further investigation. In this review we will discuss the studies that have been performed to characterize these chelators at the chemical and biologic levels as effective agents for treating Fe overload. The evidence from the literature suggests that these ligands deserve further careful investigation as potential orally effective Fe chelators.