In this study, performance of a lab-scale hybrid up-flow anaerobic sludge blanket (UASB) reactor, treating a chemical synthesis-based pharmaceutical wastewater, was evaluated under different operating conditions. This study consisted of two experimental stages: first, acclimation to the pharmaceutical wastewater and second, determination of maximum loading capacity of the hybrid UASB reactor. Initially, the carbon source in the reactor feed came entirely from glucose, applied at an organic loading rate (OLR) 1 kg COD/m(3) d. The OLR was gradually step increased to 3 kg COD/m(3) d at which point the feed to the hybrid UASB reactor was progressively modified by introducing the pharmaceutical wastewater in blends with glucose, so that the wastewater contributed approximately 10%, 30%, 70%, and ultimately, 100% of the carbon (COD) to be treated. At the acclimation OLR of 3 kg COD/m(3) d the hydraulic retention time (HRT) was 2 days. During this period of feed modification, the COD removal efficiencies of the anaerobic reactor were 99%, 96%, 91% and 85%, and specific methanogenic activities (SMA) were measured as 240, 230, 205 and 231 ml CH4/g TVS d, respectively. Following the acclimation period, the hybrid UASB reactor was fed with 100% (w/v) pharmaceutical wastewater up to an OLR of 9 kg COD/m(3) d in order to determine the maximum loading capacity achievable before reactor failure. At this OLR, the COD removal efficiency was 28%, and the SMA was measured as 170 ml CH4/g TVS d. The hybrid UASB reactor was found to be far more effective at an OLR of 8 kg COD/m(3) d with a COD removal efficiency of 72%. At this point, SMA value was 200 ml CH4/g TVS d. It was concluded that the hybrid UASB reactor could be a suitable alternative for the treatment of chemical synthesis-based pharmaceutical wastewater. (c) 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.