Both aspirin and beta-adrenergic blocking drugs have been shown to reduce the risk of death or acute myocardial infarction (AMI) in patients with unstable angina, but their effect during chronic use on the presentation of acute coronary syndromes is less well defined. Calcium antagonists and oral nitrates are also widely prescribed for patients with coronary disease, but their effect on presentation of acute myocardial ischemia is unknown. We retrospectively examined the effects of prior aspirin and anti-ischemic medical therapy on clinical events in 410 patients hospitalized for unstable angina. Ischemic pain occurred at rest for a duration of 5 to 60 minutes. During hospitalization, 97% of patients received aspirin and all received the direct thrombin inhibitor bivalirudin for at least 72 hours. Despite being older and more likely to have risk factors for coronary disease and poor outcome, patients receiving aspirin before admission were less likely to present with non-Q-wave AMI (5% vs 14% in patients not on aspirin, p = 0.004). Prior beta blocker, calcium antagonist, or nitrate administration did not appear to modify presentation as unstable angina or non-Q-wave AMI. In a multivariate model, the combined incidence of death, AMI not present at enrollment, or recurrent angina was best predicted by age (adjusted odds ratio [95% confidence interval] 2.38 [1.14 to 3.98]) and presence of electrocardiographic changes with pain on presentation (adjusted odds ratio 2.83 [1.50 to 5.35]) but was not related to prior or in-hospital medical therapy. Thus, aspirin but not anti-ischemic therapy before hospitalization of patients with unstable angina was associated with a decreased incidence of non-Q-wave AMI on admission.