In cell culture experiments, flupirtine maleate (FLU), a triaminopyridine compound, was able to protect neuronal cells from apoptotic cell death induced by prion protein fragments and beta-amyloid peptides. As FLU is a clinically safe drug, the authors started a double-blind placebo-controlled study in patients with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). Twenty-eight patients with CJD were randomized to an oral treatment with either FLU (n = 13) or matching placebo (PLA; n = 15). For inclusion and continuing the study, the patients had to achieve at least 50% in two of the subscales of the dementia tests employed. A battery of standardized questionnaires was employed to monitor the progression of the disease. The main outcome variable was the cognitive part of the Alzheimer's Disease Assessment Scale (ADAS-Cog); the difference between baseline and the best score under treatment was defined as the primary efficacy variable for hypothesis testing. CJD types were homogeneously distributed among the treatment groups. Patients treated with FLU showed significantly less deterioration in the dementia tests than patients treated with PLA. The mean change in ADAS-Cog (baseline to best) was +8.4 (+/-15.3) in the FLU group and +20.6 (+/-15.1) in the PLA group (p = 0.02, one-sided t-test). FLU has beneficial effects on cognitive function in patients with CJD. These positive results also may suggest a treatment potential of FLU in other neurodegenerative disorders. However, further studies are necessary.