New alkyl and aralkyl pilocarpic acid diesters, prodrugs of pilocarpine, were synthesized with the aim of improving the bioavailability of pilocarpine by increasing its corneal permeability. These esters were several orders of magnitude more lipophilic than pilocarpine as determined by their apparent partition coefficients between 1-octanol and phosphate buffer (pH 7.40) (log P). Good correlation between log P and HPLC capacity factors of the compounds was observed. All the compounds are stable in acidic aqueous solution; in serum, however, pilocarpic acid diesters are hydrolysed enzymatically to pilocarpic acid monoester, which undergoes spontaneous cyclization to active pilocarpine and inactive isopilocarpine. The half-lives of the diesters in serum varied from 6-232 min. In addition to the direct effects of the R2, R1 moiety had a remarkable effect on the rate of enzyme-catalysed hydrolysis taking place in moiety R2. The formed pilocarpine was analysed with a new HPLC method which allowed good resolution of pilocarpine, isopilocarpine, pilocarpic acid and isopilocarpic acid. Rates for pilocarpine formation were both determined by experiment and calculated using the STELLA simulation programme with known degradation rate constants of pilocarpic acid diesters and monoesters. Since the simulations were in good agreement with the experimental results, it is concluded that STELLA simulation programme is useful in predicting pilocarpine formation.