The following pharmacological definition has been taken from the Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics Department Glossary at Boston University School of Medicine .


The percent of dose entering the systemic circulation after administration of a given dosage form. More explicitly, the ratio of the amount of drug “absorbed” from a test formulation to the amount “absorbed” after administration of a standard formulation. Frequently, the “standard formulation” used in assessing bioavailability is the aqueous solution of the drug, given intravenously.

The amount of drug absorbed is taken as a measure of the ability of the formulation to deliver drug to the sites of drug action; obviously – depending on such factors as disintegration and dissolution properties of the dosage form, and the rate of biotransformation relative to rate of absorption – dosage forms containing identical amounts of active drug may differ markedly in their abilities to make drug available, and therefore, in their abilities to permit the drug to manifest its expected pharmacodynamic and therapeutic properties.

“Amount absorbed” is conventionally measured by one of two criteria, either the area under the time-plasma concentration curve (AUC) or the total (cumulative) amount of drug excreted in the urine following drug administration. A linear relationship exists between “area under the curve” and dose when the fraction of drug absorbed is independent of dose, and elimination rate (half life) and volume of distribution are independent of dose and dosage form. Alinearity of the relationship between area under the curve and dose may occur if, for example, the absorption process is a saturable one, or if drug fails to reach the systemic circulation because of, e.g., binding of drug in the intestine or biotransformation in the liver during the drug’s first transit through the portal system.

The copyright of the text is held by Trustees of Boston University. Permission has been granted for its use in this blog.

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