Dapsone has been shown to activate flurbiprofen 4'-hydroxylation by expressed CYP2C9 enzyme and in human liver microsomes. It has been suggested that this observation is due to substrate cooperativity on enzyme activity; however, the in vivo relevance of this observation is unknown. Thus, the purpose of this study was to evaluate whether dapsone can act cooperatively with flurbiprofen to activate the in vivo metabolism of flurbiprofen to 4'-hydroxyflurbiprofen. Twelve healthy subjects received single-dose flurbiprofen 50 mg on three occasions: alone (visit A); 2 h after a single dapsone 100-mg dose (visit B); and 2 h after the seventh daily dose of dapsone 100 mg (visit C). Concentrations of flurbiprofen and 4'-hydroxy flurbiprofen in plasma and urine and dapsone and N-acetyldapsone in plasma were determined by HPLC. Flurbiprofen pharmacokinetic parameters for the three visits were estimated by non-compartmental methods and compared in the absence and presence of dapsone. Flurbiprofen apparent oral clearance was increased by approximately 11% (P < 0.02) after dapsone 100 mg for 7 days. Dapsone plasma concentrations averaged 5 +/- 2 microM after a single dose and 11 +/- 4 microM after seven daily 100 mg doses. These dapsone plasma concentrations were within the range of concentrations producing activation of flurbiprofen metabolism by CYP2C9 in vitro. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that dapsone does influence flurbiprofen metabolism in vivo in a cooperative way to enhance metabolism. However, the magnitude of effect is substantially less than observed in vitro.