The aim of this study was to develop a microemulsion formulation providing an improved efficacy of orally administered insulin. The microemulsions were prepared using Labrafil M 1944 CS, Phospholipon 90 G (lecithin), absolute alcohol and bi-distilled water. The microemulsions of recombinant human (rh)-insulin and aqueous solution (200 IU/kg) were administered intragastrically by a canulla to diabetic and non-diabetic rats. Aprotinin (2500 KIU/g) was added as the enzyme inhibitor to the formulation. Upon the administration of intragastric rh-insulin solution (IS) to non-diabetic rats, the plasma glucose and insulin levels were not changed significantly. Therefore, the hypoglycemic effect caused by subcutaneous rh-insulin solution (SC), microemulsion containing rh-insulin (IME) and microemulsion containing rh-insulin and aprotinin (IMEA) were analyzed in diabetic rats. The area above the plasma glucose levels time curves (AAC), minimum glucose concentration (C-min) and time to C-min (t(min)) were derived from the plasma glucose profiles. IME and IMEA caused approximately 30% decrease in plasma glucose levels. The decrease in the plasma glucose levels continued after the 90th min. The highest AAC value was obtained when IMEA was administered to rats. The maximum plasma insulin concentration (C-max), time to reach C-max (t(max)), terminal half-life (t(1/2)), area under the plasma concentration-time curve (AUC), mean residence time (MRT) and elimination rate constant (k(el)) values were also calculated. It was observed that t(1/2) values varied between 0.53 and 1.31 h. No significant difference could be found between the pharmacokinetic parameters of the IME and IMEA administered groups. Addition of aprotinin to the microemulsion containing rh-insulin increased bioavailability when compared to those not containing it, although the difference is not significant. (c) 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.