A multicentre, double-blind, between-patient study was carried out to evaluate the efficacy and tolerability of oxiracetam (800 mg tablet), in comparison with placebo, each given twice daily for 12 weeks to patients suffering from primary degenerative, multi-infarct or mixed dementia. Efficacy was assessed by a neuropsychological battery (simple reaction time, controlled associations, short story, Raven's Progressive Matrices, token test, digit span, word list learning), administered at the beginning and at the end of the study, and by a quality of life scale, administered at entry and after 6 and 12 weeks treatment. Sixty-five patients (28 men, 37 women, mean age 71 yrs) were enrolled; 58 completed the study: 2 on oxiracetam were withdrawn because of poor tolerability, 2 (one in each group) were withdrawn for poor compliance, one (on oxiracetam) for the occurrence of a transient ischaemic attack (defined as not related to the treatment) and 2 for administrative reasons. A significantly (p < 0.01) different effect in favour of oxiracetam was observed on the quality of life scale, and confirmed by significant (defined according to the Bonferroni technique) differences in some neuropsychological tests (e.g. controlled associations, short story). Four patients in the oxiracetam group complained of a total of 5 unwanted effects, and 1 on placebo complained of 3 unwanted effects, but none of them was withdrawn from the study.