Experimental studies have demonstrated that the 3 calcium antagonists nifedipine, diltiazem, and verapamil have a comparable effect in the prevention of myocardial damage during ischaemia. Secondary prevention trials after acute myocardial infarction, which aimed at improving survival and preventing reinfarction, nevertheless demonstrated pronounced differences between the 3 drugs. Nifedipine had no effect on reinfarction or death. Diltiazem had no overall effect but prevented first reinfarction or cardiac death (cardiac events) in patients without heart failure, and increased cardiac events in patients with heart failure before randomisation. Verapamil prevented first reinfarction or death (major events); the most pronounced effect was found in patients without heart failure before randomisation. Verapamil did not have detrimental effects in patients treated for heart failure before randomisation. Differences between trials and between drugs explaining the different clinical findings are evaluated.