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The single-dose pharmacokinetics of amantadine hydrochloride and rimantadine hydrochloride were compared in a randomized, two-period, crossover study involving six young (less than or equal to 35 years) and six elderly (less than or equal to 60 years) adults. Subjects ingested single 200-mg oral doses after an overnight fast, and serial plasma (0 to 96 h), nasal mucus (0 to 8 h), and urine (0 to 24 h) samples were collected for assay of drug concentration by electron capture gas chromatography. For both groups combined, rimantadine differed significantly from amantadine in peak plasma concentration (mean +/- standard deviation, 0.25 +/- 0.06 versus 0.65 +/- 0.22 micrograms/ml), plasma elimination half-life (36.5 +/- 15 versus 16.7 +/- 7.7 h), and percentage of administered dose excreted unchanged in urine (0.6 +/- 0.8 versus 45.7 +/- 15.7%). No significant age-related differences were noted for rimantadine. Urinary excretion (0 to 24 h) of rimantadine and its hydroxylated metabolites averaged 19% of the administered dose. The maximum nasal mucus drug concentration was similar for both drugs (0.42 +/- 0.25 versus 0.45 +/- 0.32 micrograms/g), and the ratio of maximum nasal mucus to plasma concentration was over twofold higher after rimantadine than after amantadine. These findings may in part explain the clinical effectiveness of rimantadine in influenza A virus infections at dosages that have lower toxicity than those of amantadine.