Concentrations of erythromycin and 2'-acetyl erythromycin were analysed in serum or plasma and tonsil tissue after repeated dosage of erythromycin acistrate (EA), a new erythromycin prodrug, in two separate studies in 61 young patients. The reference preparations were: (1) enterocoated tablets of erythromycin base (EB enterotablets, (2) erythromycin base as enterocoated pellets (EB enterocapsules) and (3) erythromycin stearate (ES). All drugs were given 500 mg tid for three days before scheduled tonsillectomy. Tonsils were removed about 3 h after intake of the last dose. Blood samples were collected at 0, 2 and 6 h and at the time of tonsillectomy. At all time points EA produced several-fold higher total drug (erythromycin + 2'-acetyl erythromycin) concentrations in serum or plasma than any of the reference preparations. Similarly, after EA the mean total antibiotic levels in tonsil tissue exceeded the erythromycin levels after the reference preparations by at least a factor of 3. Tonsil/serum or plasma ratios of the total antibiotic were quite similar with all preparations (means 38-50%). Peak erythromycin levels in circulation did not differ significantly from each other in spite of two nonabsorbers after EB enterotablets. The same was true of tonsil tissue. There were, however, 15 tonsils with undetectable erythromycin: 4/25 (16%) with EA, 5/12 (42%) with EB enterotablets, 2/12 (17%) with EB enterocapsules and 4/12 (33%) with ES. The degree of hydrolysis of 2'-acetyl erythromycin to erythromycin was 23-43% higher in tonsil tissue than in circulation.