The first-pass effect of aspirin was measured in male Wistar rats by comparing the plasma concentration after intravenous, oral or intraportal administration (10 mg kg-1) of the drug. Approximately 88 and 86% of the dose was excreted mostly as salicylic acid and its conjugated forms, glucuronide and sulphate, in urine within 48 h of i.v. or oral administration, respectively. This suggests that the gastrointestinal absorption of aspirin was essentially complete in rats. On the average, the area under the plasma concentration-time curve for unchanged aspirin following oral dosing (AUCo) was 0.35 of that obtained following i.v. administration (AUCi.v.) and 0.53 of that following intraportal administration (AUCp). Therefore, orally administered aspirin is subject to first-pass metabolism both in the gut and in the liver of rats. The gastrointestinal first-pass effect is estimated to be relatively more important than the hepatic effect.