The aim of this study was to investigate the systemic bioavailability and plasma profiles of 17 beta-estradiol (CAS 50-28-2, E2) after the application of two types of matrix patches for the transdermal delivery of E2: MenorestTM (the test patch) with delivery rates of 37.5, 50 and 75 micrograms E2/day and a reference patch with a delivery rate of 50 micrograms E2/day. All 3 test patches were identical in composition, achieving different transdermal E2 delivery rates by variations in the surface area (11.0, 14.5 and 22.5 cm2). All 4 patches were each worn by 24 postmenopausal women over a 4-day period (i.e. 96 h), each of the 4 treatment periods being separated by a 7-day wash-out period according to a randomized, 4-way crossover design. Blood samples were collected before and 3, 6, 9, 12, 24, 34, 48, 58, 72, 84, and 96 h after each patch application. Plasma E2 concentrations were determined by a specific direct radioimmunoassay method. The following pharmacokinetic parameters were evaluated: AUC0-96h; Cmax, tmax, Cmin, Caverage. The course of the E2 plasma levels over the total test period (96 h) was relatively constant for all patches. For the test patch, a linear relationship between the pharmacokinetic parameters and the different patch areas (i.e. dosages of 37.5, 50, 75 micrograms E2/d) could be shown (correlation coefficient 0.99). The resulting Cmax values for the patch were: 44.2, 58.3, and 92.1 pg E2/ml, corresponding to Caverage values of 39.5, 45.5, and 70.6 pg E2/ml. The reference patch and the test patch, at a dose of 50 micrograms E2/d, were similar in terms of Cmax, while the Caverage, AUC0-96h and Cmin were significantly higher with the test patch. The systemic bioavailability of the reference patch was comparable to that of the test patch at a dose of 37.5 micrograms E2/d: AUC0-->96h 3017.5 +/- 1312.4 pg/ml.h for the reference patch and 3375.9 +/- 1254.7 pg/ml.h for the test patch. A physical model for the calculation of the course of the E2 levels was used to describe the experimentally determined data. However, in the evening, periodically higher E2 plasma levels were observed for all patches than in the morning. From these results it can be concluded that E2 plasma profiles produced by the test patch are reproducible, and in the physiological range consistent with the early to mid follicular level in the premenopausal woman over 4 days (96 h), correlating with the doses administered (37.5-50-75 micrograms E2/d). Additionally, the systemic bioavailability of the test patch at a dose of 37.5 micrograms E2/d is comparable to that of the reference patch at a dose of 50 micrograms E2/d.