We used 20-day-old rabbits as a model to show that the ocular bioavailability of topically applied pilocarpine nitrate increased as the instilled volume of the drug was decreased. Decreasing the instilled volume from 25 to 5 microliter permitted a dosage reduction of greater than 2.5 times without sacrificing overall drug concentrations in the eye. Since only a small fraction of topically applied doses to the eye actually reached the interior of the eye, the remainder of the dose was lost and available for systemic absorption. The reduction in dosage permitted by this approach resulted in less drug appearing in the general circulation, as shown by comparative plasma level-time profiles. The advantages of reducing drop size are improved ocular bioavailability permitting the use of smaller doses; and less systemic drug loss, thus reducing the potential for systemic side effects. These advantages could be especially significant in the pediatric and geriatric age groups.