In this study a (poly)peptide drug delivery system providing a protective effect towards serine pancreatic proteases was generated. Tablets containing insulin (3.3%), chitosan-EDTA (56.7%), chitosan-EDTA Bowman Birk Inhibitor (= BBI) conjugate (10%) and mannitol (30%) were homogenised in a mortar and compressed to tablets. The protective effect of this dosage form for the incorporated model drug was evaluated in vitro. Tablets were therefore incubated with an artificial intestinal fluid containing trypsin (1350 spectrophotometric BAEE units/ml), chymotrypsin (3.6 BTEE units/ml) and elastase (0.14 succinyl-Ala-Ala-Ala-p-nitroanilide units/ml) for 4.5 h at 37 degrees C. Following analysis of the dosage form demonstrated that 58.6+/-26.8% (mean +/- SD; n = 3) insulin in lateral parts and 44.4+/-12.4% (mean +/- SD: n = 3) insulin in inner parts of the swollen carrier-matrix were degraded, whereas insulin was completely metabolised in lateral parts and by 90.3+/-12.5% (mean +/- SD: n = 3) in inner parts of tablets without the chitosan-EDTA BBI conjugate. As chitosan-EDTA also provides a protective effect towards zinc-dependent proteases, the delivery system described in this study should therefore guarantee a protection towards the most abundant intestinal proteases. It might be a promising formulation for the peroral administration of peptide and protein drugs.