In the present study, oxidative pre-treatment of pharmaceutical wastewater originating from the formulation of the penicillin Sultamycillin Tosylate Diydrate via ozonation at varying pH and ozone feed rates was investigated. Biological treatability studies were performed with a synthetic wastewater alone and supplemented with raw and ozonated penicillin formulation effluents. The highest COD (34%) and TOC (24%) removal efficiencies were obtained at pH 11.0, whereas the BOD5 value increased from 16 mg l(-1) to 128 mg l(-1) after 40 min of ozonation, corresponding to an applied ozone dose of 1670 mg l(-1) and 33% relative ozone absorption. The studies showed that no degradation of raw penicillin fraction (30% of total COD) occurred, and degradation of the synthetic wastewater being completely treatable without penicillin addition, was inhibited by 7%. Upon 40 min ozonation, the synthetic wastewater could be completely oxidized and at the same time 35% of ozonated penicillin wastewater removal was obtained. Respirometric studies were conducted in parallel and produced results indicating a 22% decrease in the total oxygen consumption rate established for raw penicillin formulation effluent compared to the results obtained from the aerobic batch reactor. No inhibition of the synthetic fraction was observed for the 40 min-ozonated penicillin formulation effluent, biodegradability of the 60 min-ozonated penicillin effluent decreased possibly due to recalcitrant oxidation product accumulation. The modeling study provided experimental support and information on inhibition kinetics in activated sludge model no. 3 (ASM3) by means of respirometric tests for the first time. (C) 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.