Loteprednol etabonate (LE) is a "soft" steroid belonging to a unique class of glucocorticoids. LE possesses a metabolically labile 17 beta-chloromethyl ester function which was designed in order to be hydrolyzed to an inactive carboxylic acid moiety. The ocular absorption and metabolism of a 14C-labelled LE was evaluated in New-Zealand White rabbits after administration of a 0.5% suspension in both eyes. At various time points following ocular administration, the cornea, aqueous humor, and iris-ciliary body were collected. LE and the putative inactive metabolites, PJ-90 and PJ-91, were identified in all 3 tissues. Levels of LE and its metabolites were highest in the cornea, and so was the ratio of metabolites to unchanged drug, suggesting that the primary site of deactivation of the drug is the corneal tissue. A substantial amount of metabolites were also detected in the iris-ciliary body, although to a lesser extent than in the cornea. The amount of drug and metabolites in the aqueous humor was very low. It is concluded that LE is indeed a soft steroid with good ocular permeation properties.