- Antiviral drugs often suffer from poor intestinal permeability, preventing their delivery via the oral route. The goal of this work was to enhance the intestinal absorption of the low-permeability antiviral agents zanamivir heptyl ester (ZHE) and guanidino oseltamivir (GO) utilizing an ion-pairing approach, as a critical step toward making them oral drugs. The counterion 1-hydroxy-2-naphthoic acid (HNAP) was utilized to enhance the lipophilicity and permeability of the highly polar drugs. HNAP substantially increased the log P of the drugs by up to 3.7 log units. Binding constants (K11aq) of 388 M−1 for ZHE−HNAP and 2.91 M−1 for GO−HNAP were obtained by applying a quasi-equilibrium transport model to double-reciprocal plots of apparent octanol−buffer distribution coefficients versus HNAP concentration. HNAP enhanced the apparent permeability (Papp) of both compounds across Caco-2 cell monolayers in a concentration-dependent manner, as substantial Papp (0.8−3.0 × 10−6 cm/s) was observed in the presence of 6−24 mM HNAP, whereas no detectable transport was observed without counterion. Consistent with a quasi-equilibrium transport model, a linear relationship with slope near 1 was obtained from a log−log plot of Caco-2 Papp versus HNAP concentration, supporting the ion-pair mechanism behind the permeability enhancement. In the rat jejunal perfusion assay, the addition of HNAP failed to increase the effective permeability (Peff) of GO. However, the rat jejunal permeability of ZHE was significantly enhanced by the addition of HNAP in a concentration-dependent manner, from essentially zero without HNAP to 4.0 × 10−5 cm/s with 10 mM HNAP, matching the Peff of the high-permeability standard metoprolol. The success of ZHE−HNAP was explained by its >100-fold stronger K11aq versus GO−HNAP, making ZHE−HNAP less prone to dissociation and ion-exchange with competing endogenous anions and able to remain intact during membrane permeation. Overall, this work presents a novel approach to enable the oral delivery of highly polar antiviral drugs, and provides new insights into the underlying mechanisms governing the success or failure of the ion-pairing strategy to increase oral absorption.