The rat intestinal lumen and the blood vessel were simultaneously perfused to study drug permeation across the intestinal epithelium. On the basis of drug disappearance from the intestinal lumen and its appearance into the vascular outflow, the mean time required for permeation across the intestinal membrane (MPT) and the permeation clearance (CLp) were calculated. MPT values of water, antipyrine, propranolol, imipramine and mannitol, varied from 0.45 min to 9.91 min depending on their physicochemical property. From both MPT and CLp, five drugs were classified as being (i) highly and rapidly absorbed (water, antipyrine), (ii) highly but slowly absorbed (propranolol, imipramine) and (iii) low and slowly absorbed (mannitol). Permeation profiles of these drugs were analyzed based on the diffusion model which defined the parameter for each permeation process, i.e. partitioning to and diffusion through the epithelium and clearance into the blood flow. Propranolol and imipramine partitioned into the membrane at a higher level than the other drugs. However, the clearance of both drugs from the epithelium was extremely slow, suggesting that this process is the rate-limiting step in their permeation. On the other hand, the rate-limiting step in the permeation of water and antipyrine was found to be the diffusion process in the epithelial layer.