The purpose of this research was to evaluate the difference between the pharmaceutical phosphate buffers and the gastrointestinal bicarbonates in dissolution of ketoprofen and indomethacin, to illustrate the dependence of buffer differential on biopharmaceutical properties of BCS II weak acids, and to recommend phosphate buffers equivalent to bicarbonates. The intrinsic dissolution rates of ketoprofen and indomethacin were experimentally measured using a rotating disk method at 37 degrees C in USP SIF/FaSSIF and various concentrations of bicarbonates. Theoretical models including an improved reaction plane model and a film model were applied to estimate the surrogate phosphate buffers equivalent to the bicarbonates. Experimental results show that the intrinsic dissolution rates of ketoprofen and indomethacin in USP and FaSSIF phosphate buffers are 1.5-3.0 times that in the 15 mM bicarbonates. Theoretical analysis demonstrates that the buffer differential is largely dependent on the drug pK(a) and second on solubility, and weakly dependent on the drug diffusivity. Further, in accordance with the drug pK(a), solubility and diffusivity, a simple phosphate surrogate was proposed to match an average bicarbonate value (15 mM) of the upper gastrointestinal region. Specifically, phosphate buffers of 13-15 mM and 3-4 mM were recommended for ketoprofen and indomethacin, respectively. For both ketoprofen and indomethacin, the intrinsic dissolution using the phosphate surrogate buffers closely approximated the 15 mM bicarbonate buffer. This work demonstrates the substantial difference between pharmaceutical phosphates and physiological bicarbonates in determining the drug intrinsic dissolution rates of BCS II weak acids, such as ketoprofen and indomethacin. Surrogate phosphates were recommended in order to closely reflect the in vivo dissolution of ketoprofen and indomethacin in gastrointestinal bicarbonates, which has significant implications for defining buffer systems for BCS II weak acids in developing in vitro bioequivalence dissolution methodology.