P-glycoprotein (P-gp) actively pumps out a number of anticancer drugs, such as epirubicin, from tumor cells. P-gp is also expressed in the small intestine under normal physiological conditions. Inhibition of intestinal P-gp function using MDR reversing agents may enhance the oral bioavailability of some chemotherapeutic agents. Human colon adenocarcinoma (Caco-2) cell line expresses many characteristics of differentiated cells of the normal small intestine. Using Caco-2 as an in vitro intestinal model, the overall goal of the present study was to evaluate the MDR-reversing effects of some commonly used nonabsorptive pharmaceutical surfactants, such as Tween 20, Tween 80 and acacia on the intracellular accumulation of epirubicin by flow cytometry. Tween 20, Tween 80 or acacia all significantly increased intracellular accumulation of epirubicin with the highest enhancing effect for acacia and the lowest for Tween 20. Apart from progesterone, the enhancing effects of surfactants were better than those of non-surfactant MDR reversing agents such as verapamil, trifluoperazine and reserpine. In conclusion, our results demonstrate that progesterone, acacia, Tween 20 and Tween 80 are potent MDR modifiers of epirubicin in Caco-2 at concentrations that could be achieved in vivo. Use of surfactants in excipients may increase the intestinal absorption of some drugs through P-gp inhibition and thus improve drug bioavailability for P-gp substrate.