The efficacy and safety of alpidem, a new anxiolytic imidazopyridine, were compared with those of placebo in anxious elderly patients (65-80 years) by means of a randomized, double-blind, parallel group study. Following a 7-day "placebo run-in," 40 anxious patients were randomized to receive either alpidem or placebo. Daily doses ranging from 75 to 150 mg (25-50 mg t.i.d.) were administered for 3 weeks. Hamilton Rating Scale for Anxiety (HRSA), State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI-X1), Visual Analogue Scale (VAS), and Clinical Global Impression (CGI) were used on days 0, 3, 7, 14, and 21 for assessing efficacy. Psychomotor and mnesic performances were evaluated at the same time by means of the Digit Symbol Substitution Test (DSST), the Grünberger's test for fine motor coordination, and the Hawie's test for immediate memory. Possible adverse events were also recorded during the five visits. The anxiolytic efficacy of alpidem was significantly (p < 0.01) superior to that of placebo in all the rating scales adopted. The anxiolytic action was clearly evident from day 7. For most of the patients the active dose was 25 mg t.i.d. No relevant adverse effects were observed in both groups. No impairment of psychomotor and mnesic performances could be observed in the alpidem group. Alpidem is a new interesting anxiolytic drug for anxious elderly patients because it appears remarkably safe and, at effective doses, it does not impair psychomotor performances and cognitive functions.