Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Stop Paying for Drug-Coated Stents

Wall Street Journal (Health Blog)
August 27, 2007

UK Gov’t Could Stop Paying for Drug-Coated Stents

Posted by Jacob Goldstein

This week’s installment in drug-coated stents’ never-ending tale of woe comes from Britain, where the National Health Service could soon stop paying for the devices altogether.

A recent report (available here) commissioned by the government found that drug-coated stents, which cost about $2,300, aren’t worth the extra money compared to older bare metal stents, which cost about $700.

Tomorrow is the last day for the public to comment on the report, and the country’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence will meet next week to review the evidence, the Associated Press reports.

“We are seeing the pendulum swing too far the other way,” a cardiologist and spokesman for the European Society of Cardiology told the AP. The British Cardiovascular Society said it was “surprised, disappointed and very concerned” by the proposal.

The British will likely will stop short of denying reimbursement altogether, Morgan Stanley analyst Glenn Reicin argues in a note to investors. But Reicin, who puts the U.K.’s drug-coated stent market at $80 million to $100 million, adds that “one cannot totally rule out something more dramatic.”

Clogged arteries propped open with drug-coated stents are less likely to re-clog than those supported by bare-metal stents. But the drug-coated devices may carry a slightly higher risk of causing blood clots long after being inserted. And one recent study found that many patients who receive stents might do just as well receiving only drug treatment.

Those findings have sent sales of drug-coated stents way down for Johnson & Johnson and Boston Scientific. So far, though, there’s no sign that insurers in this country plan to stop paying for the devices.

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