Recently, a number of Alzheimer's disease (AD) multi-center clinical trials (CT) have failed to provide statistically significant evidence of drug efficacy. To test for possible design or execution flaws we analyzed in detail CTs for two failed drugs that were strongly supported by preclinical evidence and by proven CT AD efficacy for other drugs in their class. Studies of the failed commercial trials suggest that methodological flaws may contribute to the failures and that these flaws lurk within current drug development practices ready to impact other AD drug development . To identify and counter risks we considered the relevance to AD drug development of the following factors: (1) effective dosing of the drug product, (2) reliable evaluations of research subjects, (3) effective implementation of quality controls over data at research sites, (4) resources for practitioners to effectively use CT results in patient care, (5) effective disease modeling, (6) effective research designs. New drugs currently under development for AD address a variety of specific mechanistic targets. Mechanistic targets provide AD drug development opportunities to escape from many of the factors that currently undermine AD clinical pharmacology, especially the problems of inaccuracy and imprecision associated with using rated outcomes. In this paper we conclude that many of the current problems encountered in AD drug development can be avoided by changing practices. Current problems with human errors in clinical trials make it difficult to differentiate drugs that fail to evidence efficacy from apparent failures due to Type II errors. This uncertainty and the lack of publication of negative data impede researchers' abilities to improve methodologies in clinical pharmacology and to develop a sound body of knowledge about drug actions. We consider the identification of molecular targets as offering further opportunities for overcoming current failures in drug development.