In the Cardiac Arrhythmia Pilot Study (CAPS), patients early (6-60 days) after acute myocardial infarction (MI) with ventricular premature complexes (VPCs) of over 10 per hour were randomized to receive, unaware, therapy with one of four antiarrhythmic drugs (n = 402) or placebo (n = 100). Treatment success was defined as 70% or more decrease in VPC rate and 90% or more decrease in VPC runs. If the first active drug was ineffective, a second drug was given. If placebo was ineffective, a second placebo was given. To determine whether or not baseline clinical characteristics predict the response to antiarrhythmic therapy, 10 baseline variables were selected for investigation: age, prior MI, time from CAPS MI to randomization, ejection fraction, baseline VPC frequency, presence of runs (greater than or equal to 3 consecutive VPCs, greater than or equal to 100 beats/min), beta-blocker therapy, digitalis therapy, MI transmurality, and MI location. At the end of the first drug treatment, apparent treatment success in patients receiving placebo was associated on univariate analysis with absence of prior MI, with trends for younger age and Q wave MI, whereas in patients receiving active therapies, higher ejection fraction and younger age were associated with better suppression. In the encainide and flecainide treatments, where the greatest response was observed, absence of prior MI, higher ejection fraction, and younger age were associated with more successful treatment. In a multivariate analysis with these variables, ejection fraction and age remained significant for all active therapies, absence of prior MI and ejection fraction remained significant in the encainide and flecainide treatments, and absence of prior MI in the placebo treatment. Few variables except ejection fraction were associated with VPC suppression during the 1-year follow-up, and only lower ejection fraction and older age related to loss of long-term suppression. Thus, there are only a few independent baseline clinical variables (notably, ejection fraction) that substantially affect antiarrhythmic drug efficacy in suppressing VPCs in patients early after MI. Some variables, however, may be associated with spontaneous arrhythmia variability, leading to an apparent (placebo) response. These findings will be helpful in designing and interpreting treatment studies in patients after MI.