The pharmacodynamics of (-)-beta-2',3'-dideoxy-3'-thiacytidine (3TC) was studied in chronically woodchuck hepatitis virus-infected woodchucks and compared to that in previous studies in hepatitis B virus (HBV)-infected humans. Net depletion rates of serum virus DNA in woodchucks receiving 3TC were modeled as a sum of an exponentially declining virus input and a first-order elimination. Preceding shoulders and pseudo-first-order virus half-lives in serum ranged from 1 to 7 days and were dose dependent. Higher plasma 3TC concentrations were needed in woodchucks for virus depletion similar to that attained in humans. Human HBV depletion curves from a previous clinical study with 3TC (>/=100 mg per day) were described by a biexponential relationship. The average half-life value in humans, normalized to fraction of area under the serum virus load-time curve, was similar to the average half-life value observed in woodchucks given the highest 3TC dose (2.4 and 2.0 days, respectively). On cessation of therapy, virus load rebounds in woodchucks were dose dependent and resembled posttherapy virus "flares" reported to occur in humans. The estimates of drug exposures that could lead to optimal antiviral effects presented indicate that 3TC should not be underdosed and compliance should be monitored. The study of chronically infected woodchucks may prove useful for optimizing drug regimens for hepadnavirus infections.