A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group clinical trial was carried out to compare 24-week periods of treatment with 1 g acetyl-l-carnitine twice daily and placebo in the treatment of patients with dementia of the Alzheimer type. A total of 36 patients entered the trial, of whom 20 patients (7 active, 13 placebo) completed the full 24 weeks. Whilst several of the efficacy indices showed little change in either group during the trial, there was an apparent trend for more improvement in the acetyl-l-carnitine group in relation to the Names Learning Test and a computerized Digit Recall Test, both related to aspects of short-term memory. Similarly, there was a trend for reaction time in the computerized classification test to show less deterioration in the active treatment group. Changes within groups, and changes between groups, failed to reach statistical significance, at least partially because of the small number of patients available for analysis. Two indices of overall therapeutic benefit showed a trend for less deterioration in the active-treatment group than in the placebo group. Nausea and/or vomiting occurred in 5 patients in the acetyl-l-carnitine group. Laboratory tests revealed no signs of drug toxicity. The results suggest that acetyl-l-carnitine may have a beneficial effect on some clinical features of Alzheimer-type dementia, particularly those related to short-term memory.