The concomitant use of carbapenem antibiotics with valproic acid has been prohibited because panipenem induced a decrease in plasma concentration of valproic acid in epileptic patients during valproic acid therapy. To clarify the possible mechanism of the carbapenem-valproic acid interaction, we investigated the effect of imipenem on the pharmacokinetic behaviour of valproic acid in rats. Co-administration of imipenem (30 mg kg(-1), i.v.) induced a decrease in the peak plasma concentration of valproic acid after oral administration. However, the imipenem-induced decrease in plasma concentrations of valproic acid was not observed within 60 min after intravenous injection of valproic acid. By utilizing in-situ vascular and luminal perfused small intestine, it was confirmed that absorption of valproic acid from the luminal to the vascular perfusate was decreased in the presence of imipenem (0.5 mM) in the vascular perfusate. The everted gut sac method was used to determine the effect of imipenem on active transport of valproic acid. The accumulation of valproic acid on the serosal side of the intestinal sac against the concentration gradient was reduced by lactic acid that inhibits the carrier-mediated transport of valproic acid across the intestinal brush-border membrane. However, imipenem did not affect the active transport of valproic acid. Therefore, the inhibition by imipenem of valproic acid absorption may be caused by a mechanism different from that of lactic acid. In conclusion, imipenem inhibits the intestinal absorption of valproic acid, which contributes to the decrease in plasma concentration of valproic acid after oral administration.