We evaluated three acid-resistant pancreatic enzyme preparations by in vitro assays, and by comparing degree of steatorrhea, creatorrhea, fecal wet weight, and stool energy losses in a randomized crossover study of patients with pancreatic insufficient cystic fibrosis. Aims of the study were to assess (a) the most practicable and reliable indicator of malabsorption; (b) the variation in enzyme batch potency; (c) the decline in enzyme batch potency with prolonged shelf life; and (d) the relative bioefficacy of the different preparations. In the in vivo study, absorption of energy, nitrogen, and fat did not differ when comparing the three preparations at roughly pharmaceutically equivalent doses, but when expressed per capsule of pancreatic supplement ingested, absorption reflected relative enzyme content, favoring the higher potency preparations. Although steatorrhea was reasonably controlled by these preparations, stool energy losses varied from 800 to 1,100 kJ per day, suggesting greater attention be paid to overall energy absorption rather than absorption of individual nutrients. In addition, fecal energy loss correlated more closely with fecal wet weight (r = 0.81; p < 0.05) than with steatorrhea (r = 0.40; ns), such that 1 g wet feces = 8.37 kJ (± 0.14). In vitro enzyme potency varied markedly between batches of the same brand, and also a decline of up to 20% in amylase, lipase, and trypsin activity was noted over an 8-month period for each batch. Both observations have clinical implications at times of represcription. Finally, the higher potency preparations were more effective per capsule and reduced capsule dosage is therefore attainable.