Penciclovir is a drug active against herpes simplex viruses located in the epidermis basal layer. The aim of this study was to compare the suction blister technique and microdialysis as methods to measure the penciclovir concentration in the skin after a single dose (250 mg) of its prodrug, famciclovir. Suction blister fluid, microdialysates and plasma were sampled from 11 healthy volunteers for 5 h after famciclovir administration. Both the suction blister technique and microdialysis showed that penciclovir reaches the skin in concentrations sufficient to inhibit herpes virus replication. The maximum concentration in both suction blister fluid and in microdialysate was observed later than in plasma. The microdialysis concentration was decreased by cooling of the skin surface and by adrenaline-mediated vasoconstriction. The microdialysis recovery of penciclovir was studied with respect to the flow-rate of perfusion medium through the microdialysis probe. Microdialysis and the suction blister technique can be used to study the time-concentration profile of penciclovir in the skin and microdialysis allows a continuous sampling of the drug for a prolonged time after administration.