The effect of inhibiting gastric acid secretion on nicotinamide pharmacokinetics was studied in five volunteers with the intent of reducing the large variations observed previously in the time to and magnitude of peak plasma concentrations. Plasma levels were determined using a standard high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) method after an oral dose of 3 g of nicotinamide either alone or preceded by pretreatment with omeprazole. Suppression of gastric acid production had no significant effect on the rate of uptake or on the peak levels achieved. To bypass gastric acidity, the rectal route was also assessed using a suppository in four volunteers and one patient undergoing radiotherapy. Absorption was slow and variable and much lower plasma levels were observed than after oral dosing. Thus, no improvement in the pharmacokinetics of nicotinamide was observed using either of these two approaches. Parallel estimations were made using a novel and non-invasive method for monitoring nicotinamide pharmacokinetics in saliva. A large and variable fraction of the total amount of nicotinamide-related material in saliva was found to be nicotinic acid, a metabolite not normally found in human plasma. This conversion was inhibited by the use of a chlorhexidine mouthwash, indicating that the oral flora was responsible for its production. The time to peak levels of nicotinamide or of nicotinamide plus nicotinic acid in saliva correlated well with that in plasma. However, peak concentrations for nicotinamide alone were significantly lower than in plasma, and very variable, whereas for nicotinamide plus nicotinic acid saliva levels were 20-30% higher, but more consistent. Although there are some practical difficulties in quantitatively handling saliva, the method is very useful for monitoring nicotinamide pharmacokinetics and for assessment of compliance with nicotinamide treatment.