The pharmacokinetics of sulindac have been studied after a single 200 mg oral dose in six normal subjects and five patients with surgical ileostomies. The plasma concentration-time curves for sulindac were similar in both groups up to 12 hours after dosing, indicating similar absorption of the drug. Higher plasma concentrations of sulindac were found in normal subjects after 12 hours, but this late phase accounted for only 12% of the total AUC in the subjects. The sulfone metabolite showed a similar pattern, with no statistically significant difference in the total AUC, but in patients with ileostomy there was a halving of the AUC after 12 hours. Plasma concentrations of the active sulfide metabolite were similar in both groups up to 12 hours, but negligible concentrations were detected in the plasma of patients with ileostomy after 12 hours. Thus the AUC after 12 hours, which represented 55% of the total AUC in normal subjects, was reduced to only 7% in patients with ileostomy. The rate of reduction of sulindac in vitro by ileostomy effluent was only one hundredth that by normal feces. Our results suggest that the gut microflora are an important site of reduction of sulindac in man. Comparison of AUC values suggests that about half the total sulfide is formed by the gut bacteria, probably from sulindac excreted in the bile.