A sensitive and reproducible stir bar-sorptive extraction and high performance liquid chromatography-UV detection (SBSE/HPLC-UV) method for therapeutic drug monitoring of rifampicin in plasma samples is described and compared with a liquid:liquid extraction (LLE/HPLC-UV) method. This miniaturized method can result in faster analysis, higher sample throughput, lower solvent consumption and less workload per sample while maintaining or even improving sensitivity. Important factors in the optimization of SBSE efficiency such as pH, temperature, extraction time and desorption conditions (solvents, mode magnetic stir, mode ultrasonic stir, time and number of steps) were optimized recoveries ranging from 75 to 80%. Separation was obtained using a reverse phase C(8) column with UV detection (254 nm). The mobile phase consisted of methanol:0.25 N sodium acetate buffer, pH 5.0 (58:42, v/v). The SBSE/HPLC-UV method was linear over a working range of 0.125-50.0 mu g mL(-1). The intra-assay and inter-assay precision and accuracy were studied at three concentrations (1.25, 6.25 and 25.0 mu g mL(-1)). The intra-assay coefficients of variation (CVs) for all compounds were less than 10% and all inter-CVs were less than 10%. Limits of quantification were 0.125 mu g mL(-1). Stability studies showed rifampicin was stable in plasma for 12 h after thawing; the samples were also stable for 24 h after preparation. Based on the figures of merit results, the SBSE/HPLC-UV proved to be adequate to the rifampicin analyses from therapeutic to toxic levels. This method was successfully applied to the analysis of real samples and was as effective as the LLE/HPLC-UV method. (C) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.