* New research suggests old stents safer than drug stents
* Doctors say more long-term research is needed
(Adds detail on study and comments from researcher)
By Debra Sherman and Bill Berkrot
ATLANTA, March 16 New research shows more
patients who got drug-coated stents right after suffering a
severe heart attack later died from heart-related problems than
those who received older, cheaper bare-metal models.
Seven years after the first drug-coated stent was approved
in the United States, heart doctors gathering in Atlanta for
the American College of Cardiology meeting debated the issue,
saying more research is needed to understand the long-term
Danish researchers conducted a trial of more than 600
patients examining the effectiveness and risks of the two types
of stents implanted right after a major heart attack.
They found that after three years, patients who got
bare-metal stents were more likely to have problems, such as
requiring more intervention for blockages, while patients with
the drug-coated variety were more likely to die from
More than 6 percent of patients in the study who got the
drug-coated stent died, compared with nearly 2 percent who got
the bare metal stent, researchers said.
"The key message here is that we have shown that despite a
finding of lower major adverse cardiac events, cardiac
mortality was significantly higher in the drug-eluting stent
group," said Dr. Peter Clemmensen of Copenhagen University
Stents are tiny tubular devices used to prop open diseased
heart arteries and have been used widely for almost 20 years.
Newer and more expensive versions of the devices are coated
with medicines that help keep treated arteries from
When Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) began selling the first
drug-coated stent in April 2003, it quickly became a big
seller. The stent was considered to be revolutionary, and other
medical device manufacturers raced to get their own versions on
J&J, Medtronic Inc (MDT.N), Boston Scientific Corp (BSX.N)
and Abbott Laboratories Inc (ABT.N) are the top manufacturers
of stents and paid for the study by the Danish researchers.
Several years ago, there was a debate among doctors about
the cause of a small, but potentially deadly risk that blood
clots could develop around the stented area long after a
drug-coated stent was implanted.
"Long-term data are scarce," Clemmensen said, adding that
there needs to be a large study to answer safety questions. "I
would say that devices are accepted on much less data."
(Reporting by Debra Sherman and Bill Berkrot; Editing by John
Wallace and Richard Chang)