The chemical breakdown of carmethizole [1-methyl-2-methylthio-4,5-bis-(hydroxymethyl)imidazole-4',5'- bis(N-methylcarbamate)hydrochloride] and its pharmacokinetics in the mouse and beagle dog were studied. Carmethizole was relatively unstable in aqueous media, having a half-life of less than or equal to 1 h in 0.9% sodium chloride, human whole blood, human plasma, and dog urine at 37 degrees C. Its major breakdown product in 0.9% sodium chloride and pH 5.0 sodium phosphate buffer was carmethizole diol. When carmethizole was added to pH 7.0 or pH 9.0 sodium phosphate buffer, the major breakdown product was carmethizole diol-4'-monophosphate. Carmethizole reacted directly with glutathione at pH 8.0, forming a glutathione adduct of carmethizole monocarbamate. Elimination of the drug from the plasma of the beagle dog following i.v. bolus doses of 22.4 and 4.3 mg/kg was biphasic. At these doses the terminal half-life was 39 and 46 min, respectively, and the respective total body clearance was 4.6 and 7.7 ml/min per kg. The 22.4 mg/kg dose was lethal to the beagle dog by day 4. Elimination of carmethizole from the plasma of mice following an i.v. bolus dose of 115 mg/kg was monoexponential, with a half-life of 11.6 min and a total body plasma clearance of 43.6 ml/min per kg. When the drug was infused at 230 mg/kg over 8 h into mice, the total body clearance was 40.8 ml/min per kg. Following the i.v. bolus administration of carmethizole to mice, 30% of the total dose was excreted in urine over 3 h as carmethizole diol, 10%, as carmethizole diol-sulfate, 3.4%, as carmethizole 4'-monocarbamate, and 2.4%, as unchanged drug.