Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Stents Waltz Through Vienna Meeting

Wall Street Journal

September 4, 2007, 10:33 am
Stents Waltz Through Vienna Meeting
Posted by Jacob Goldstein

There’s a bunch of new information on the risks (or lack of them) from drug-coated stents being presented at the European Society of Cardiology’s big annual meeting in Vienna. But how to piece together the findings into a cohesive picture is tricky and inconclusive, suggesting that the latest data won’t resolve the ongoing debate over the safety and proper use of the devices.

On the bright side for stent makers, including Johnson & Johnson and Boston Scientific, an absence of more bad news on stents may be enough to constitute good news. Overall, this year’s meeting is better than last year’s for stent makers “if for no other reason than there have been no major negative surprises,” Lehman Brothers’ analyst Tony Butler writes in a note this morning.

Still, the picture isn’t particularly rosy, with continued uncertainty over the devices’ safety, and a stent market unlikely to see short-term growth, he writes. Butler estimates that stent sales will account for less than 10% of profit for Abbott Laboratories, which is likely to introduce its first U.S. stent soon.

One analysis presented at the meeting found that heart-attack patients who received drug-coated stents were at a higher risk of death in the two years following their heart attack than patients who received bare-metal stents. That study, described here, was based on an analysis of patients from 94 hospitals in 14 countries.

But another analysis (abstract here) of about 35,000 patients in Sweden found that those who received drug-coated stents had the same risk of heart attack and death as those who received bare-metal stents. An earlier analysis of the same registry by the same author, Stefan James, had revealed an increased risk in fatal blood clots among patients who received drug-eluting stents. The shift may be a result of more cautious use of the devices, or more careful management of patients who receive them, according to the Associated Press.

But James suggested that, despite his newest findings, it would be premature to conclude that drug-coated stents don’t carry a higher risk of blood clots. “The risk is not eliminated,” he said, according to AP. “We haven’t solved the clot problem yet.”

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