Susalimod is a structural analogue of sulphasalazine, known to be extensively excreted in the bile in various animal species and for inducing bile duct hyperplasia after long-term treatment of the dog with doses exceeding 25 mg kg(-1). In this study local concentrations of susalimod in the bile duct were determined after oral administration in dogs. A chronic bile fistula experimental model was designed to affect the bile duct as little as possible. The dogs received repeated oral doses of 25-150 mg kg(-1) day(-1) for 5 days; these doses had been used in previous toxicology studies. Extremely high biliary concentrations of unchanged susalimod (20,000-43,000 microM) were measured. Biliary excretion approached saturation at the higher doses, resulting in super-proportional increases in peripheral plasma concentrations as the dose was increased. The maximal bile/plasma concentration ratio was 4300. The high biliary clearance was indicative of almost complete first-pass elimination at doses below saturation of the elimination process. Interaction studies with the biliary excretion marker bromosulphthalein (BSP) demonstrated that susalimod and BSP probably share the same carrier transport system in biliary excretion. The elimination of BSP from plasma was prolonged 20 times and the biliary excretion rate was markedly reduced when susalimod was co-administered with BSP. These results show that susalimod is highly enriched in the bile, in a saturable manner, after oral administration. The compound interacts with the biliary excretion of BSP, suggesting that it shares the same carrier-mediated transport system.