Objective: To evaluate the efficacy and safety of metrifonate, an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, in patients clinically diagnosed with probable Alzheimer's disease (AD) of mild to moderate severity. Methods: A prospective, 36-week, multicenter, double-blind, randomized, parallel group study of metrifonate in probable AD patients, including a 2-week screening period, a 26-week double-blind treatment period, and a follow-up visit at 8 weeks post-treatment. A total of 24 ambulatory clinics in the United States in a variety of settings, including contract research organizations, public health facilities, and universities. Patients met diagnostic criteria for probable AD as defined by the work group of the National Institute for Neurological and Communicative Diseases and Stroke and the Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders Association. Patients had Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) scores of 10 to 26 and Ischemic Scores (Rosen Modification) of <4. A total of 408 patients were enrolled. Percentages of patients completing double-blind treatment were 88% and 79% in the placebo and metrifonate groups, respectively. Rates of discontinuation due to adverse events were 4% in the placebo group and 12% in the metrifonate group. Placebo or metrifonate was administered once daily. Metrifonate-treated patients received a loading dose of 100 to 180 mg based on weight (2.0 mg/kg) for 2 weeks, followed by a maintenance dose of 30 to 60 mg based on weight (0.65 mg/kg) for 24 weeks. Primary efficacy variables were the Alzheimer's Disease Assessment Scale-Cognitive Subscale (ADAS-Cog) and the Clinician's Interview- Based Impression of Change with Caregiver Input (CIBIC-plus). Secondary efficacy variables included the Neuropsychiatric Inventory (NPI), the Disability Assessment in Dementia, the Global Deterioration Scale (GDS), the ADAS-Noncognitive subscale (ADAS-Noncog), the MMSE, and the Clinician's Interview-Based Impression of Severity with Caregiver Input (CIBIS-plus). Outcome measures reflected changes from baseline at week 26 for all variables. Safety was assessed with incidences of premature termination, treatment-emergent events and mortality, and routine safety evaluations. Results: After 26 weeks of metrifonate therapy, a 2.86-point treatment difference (p = 0.0001) was observed in the ADAS-Cog scores of the intent- to-treat AD patients. The treatment difference in the mean CIBIC-plus score at this time was 0.28 points (p = 0.0071). At week 26, treatment differences also were observed in the mean NPI total score (p = 0.0161). Analysis of the remaining secondary efficacy variables showed treatment differences that favored metrifonate but did not reach statistical significance. Metrifonate adverse events were predominantly mild in intensity. No hepatotoxicity was observed. Conclusions: Metrifonate was safe and well-tolerated. It enhanced not only the cognitive and global function, but also the behavioral function of patients diagnosed with mild to moderate AD. Therefore, metrifonate appears to be useful in the symptomatic treatment of AD.