Essential tremor (ET) is a common movement disorder. Animal studies show that histaminergic modulation may affect the pathological processes involved in the generation of ET. Histamine-3 receptor inverse agonists (H3RIA) have demonstrated attenuating effects on ET in the harmaline rat model. In this double-blind, three-way cross-over, single-dose, double-dummy study the effects of 25 mg of a novel H3RIA (MK-0249) and a stable alcohol level (0.6 g L(-1)) were compared with placebo, in 18 patients with ET. Tremor was evaluated using laboratory tremorography, portable tremorography and a clinical rating scale. The Leeds Sleep Evaluation Questionnaire (LSEQ) and a choice reaction time (CRT) test were performed to evaluate potential effects on sleep and attention, respectively. A steady state of alcohol significantly diminished tremor as assessed by laboratory tremorography, portable tremorography and clinical ratings compared with placebo. A high single MK-0249 dose was not effective in reducing tremor, but caused significant effects on the LSEQ and the CRT test. These results suggest that treatment with a single dose of MK-0249 does not improve tremor in alcohol-responsive patients with ET, whereas stable levels of alcohol as a positive control reproduced the commonly reported tremor-diminishing effects of alcohol.