Donepezil has been shown to be well tolerated and to improve cognition and global function in patients with mild to moderately severe Alzheimer's disease (AD). The current trial was undertaken to investigate further the efficacy and safety of donepezil, in a multinational setting, in patients with mild to moderately severe AD. This 30-week, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study consisted of a 24-week, double-blind treatment phase followed by a 6-week, single-blind, placebo washout. Eight hundred and eighteen patients with mild to moderately severe AD were randomly allocated to treatment with single, daily doses of 5 or 10 mg donepezil, or placebo. The two primary efficacy measures were: a cognitive performance test, the Alzheimer's Disease Assessment Scale-cognitive subscale (ADAS-cog) and a global evaluation, the Clinician's Interview-Based Impression of Change with caregiver input (CIBIC plus). Secondary outcome measures included the Sum of the Boxes of the Clinical Dementia Rating Scale (CDR-SB), a modified Interview for Deterioration in Daily living activities in Dementia (IDDD) and a patient rated quality of life assessment. Statistically significant improvements in cognitive and global function were observed, as evaluated by ADAS-cog and CIBIC plus, respectively, in both the 5 and 10 mg/day donepezil groups, compared with placebo. Treatment-associated changes were also observed in functional skills, as shown by improved scores on the CDR-SB and the complex-tasks component of the IDDD. A dose-response effect was evident, with the 10 mg/day donepezil group demonstrating greater benefits in all outcome measures than the 5 mg/day group. Donepezil was well tolerated by this patient population and did not produce any clinically significant laboratory test abnormalities. The results of this study confirm that donepezil is effective and well tolerated in treating the symptoms of mild to moderately severe AD.