Calcium channel antagonists can reduce calcium overload induced by myocardial ischemia and thereby protect against malignant arrhythmias. However, these drugs may also adversely affect cardiac contractile function. Mibefradil is a new calcium antagonist that can inhibit cardiac calcium current without reducing myocardial force development. The effects of mibefradil on the inducibility of arrhythmias both before and during ischemia were therefore evaluated in animals with healed infarctions. First, a 2-min coronary occlusion was made during the last minute of exercise (n = 48): 25 animals had ventricular fibrillation (susceptible), whereas 23 did not (resistant). On a subsequent day, programmed electrical stimulation (PES, 8 paced beats followed by two extrastimuli) induced ventricular tachycardia in 19 of 25 susceptible animals but in none of the resistant animals (chi square = 24.6, P < .001). Verapamil (n = 14), diltiazem (n = 13) and mibefradil (n = 14) elicited significant dose-dependent decreases in refractory period and in the Q-Tc interval (except mibefradil) yet failed to prevent PES-induced arrhythmias. Diltiazem and verapamil also increased P-R interval and reduced the maximum rate of change of left ventricular pressure, whereas mibefradil did not. However, all three drugs abolished arrhythmias induced by PES during ischemia. In contrast, lidocaine suppressed PES-induced arrhythmias but failed to prevent ischemically induced arrhythmias. Thus mibefradil can prevent ischemically induced ventricular fibrillation without adverse actions on either A-V nodal conduction or contractile function. These data further suggest that calcium entry may play a critical role in the initiation of ventricular fibrillation during ischemia, whereas other factors must be responsible for the extrasystoles induced by PES.