Eight healthy Vietnamese male subjects received 400 mg artemisinin formulated into fatty suppositories (FS), and six different subjects received 500 mg of artemisinin formulated in polyethylene glycol suppositories (PEGS). Plasma concentrations were measured by high-performance liquid chromatography with electrochemical detection; concentration versus time curves were analyzed with nonparametric methods. No statistically significant differences were found between the two formulations. The maximum concentration (Cmax) was 100 +/- 102 microg/L (mean +/- SD, range = 24-330) microg/L (FS), the pharmacokinetic lag time (Tlag) was 1.3 +/- 1.0 hr (range = 0-3) (FS), and the time of the maximum concentration (Tmax) was 7.1 +/- 2.1 hr (range = 3-10) hr (FS). Because artemisinin is not available for intravenous dosage, absolute bioavailability cannot be assessed. However, compared with a previous study on oral artemisinin in healthy Vietnamese subjects, bioavailability relative to oral administration was estimated to be approximately 30%. We conclude that therapeutic blood concentrations of artemisinin can be reached after rectal dosage. The dose after rectal administration should probably be higher than after oral administration; doubling or tripling the oral dose might be necessary, which would imply a rectal dose of at least 20 mg/kg of body weight given twice a day.