The in vitro hydrolysis rates of steroidal anti-inflammatory antedrugs, methyl 3,20-dioxo-11β,17α,21-trihydroxy-1,4-pregnadiene-16α-carboxylate (P16CM), its 9α-fluorinated analogue (FP16CM), and their 21-O-acyl derivatives (P16CM-acetyl, FP16CM-acetyl, FP16CM-propionyl, FP16CM-valeryl, and FP16CM-pivalyl) were investigated in rat plasma. These steroids were synthesized based on the antedrug concept. P16CM and FP16CM were hydrolyzed to inactive steroid-16-carboxylate, with half-lives of 90.0 and 99.4 min, respectively. The metabolite was positively identified by NMR and elemental analysis. To determine the relative hydrolysis rate of the C21-O-acyl versus the C16-methoxycarbonyl group, P16CM- and FP16CM-21-O-acyl derivatives were also studied. The hydrolysis rates of all 21-O-acyl groups were much faster than that of the 16-methoxycarbonyl group. The half-lives of P16CM-acetyl, FP16CM-acetyl, FP16CM-valeryl, and FP16CM-propionyl were 6.3, 16.8, 23.2, and 18.4 min, respectively. On the other hand, FP16CM-pivalyl showed relatively slow hydrolysis rate (T1/2: 59.7 min). These results clearly indicate that 21-O-acyl group is metabolized first to active compound, P16CM or FP16CM, followed by the hydrolysis of 16-methoxycarbonyl to corresponding inactive steroid-16-carboxylates as the major metabolites. Collectively, the results of the present study support the previous reports where decrease in adverse systemic effects without losing local anti-inflammatory activity was attributed to the hydrolysis of the active agents to inactive acidic metabolites in the systemic circulation. This study thus shows that the incorporation of a 16-methoxycarbonyl coupled with a 21-O-acyl moiety may be a fundamentally sound synthetic strategy in the development of locally active anti-inflammatory steroids having reduced systemic adverse activities.