* J&J says Nevo cuts tissue growth 64 percent vs. Taxus
* Nevo stent cuts re-blockages 86 percent (Adds details on Boston Scientific product, analyst comment)
By Ransdell Pierson
NEW YORK, May 19 (Reuters) - Johnson & Johnson said six-month study data showed its new experimental stent was better than Boston Scientific’s Taxus at preventing re-growth of tissue within the tiny devices, used to prop open heart arteries that have been cleared of plaque.
Like Taxus, J&J’s (JNJ.N) Nevo stent incorporates a drug-polymer combination meant to prevent scar tissue from clogging the device months after it is placed in arteries.
Both the polymer and drug in the Nevo stent are absorbed into the body after about three months, leaving a bare-metal stent.
Nevo is designed to limit the amount of time arteries are exposed to the polymer because prolonged exposure has been linked in other stents to possible higher risk of blood clots that can trigger heart attacks.
Data from the study, presented Tuesday at a medical meeting in Barcelona, will be used to support an application for European regulatory approval of Nevo, J&J said.
“Nevo should help stabilize JNJ’s share and improve investor sentiment,” Wachovia analyst Larry Biegelsen said in a note to clients.
J&J officials, speaking to investors in a midday conference call, said they aim to seek U.S. approval for Nevo by the end of 2011.
Nevo encapsulates its drug-polymer in hundreds of small reservoirs, instead of coating the entire metal surface of the stent, as is the case with existing drug-eluting stents.
“The unique design allows drug delivery from a stent with a surface that is 75 percent bare metal upon insertion and which becomes purely bare metal” within three months, J&J said in a release.
By contrast, the company said all existing drug-eluting stents — including its own Cypher brand — have 100 percent of their surfaces coated with drug and polymer, and the polymer is never fully absorbed by the body.
J&J said there was 64 percent less tissue growth within Nevo than with Taxus, meeting the primary goal of the trial by a highly statistically significant margin.
There were 86 percent fewer reblockages at six months compared to Taxus, J&J said.
Such re-clogging, called restenosis, can require patients to undergo repeat stent procedures.
Boston Scientific is also developing a biodegradable polymer technology, through its Labcoat acquisition, that is applied to the outside of the stent along with the drug and absorbed into the body, leaving behind only the bare-metal stent.
Boston Scientific has said it expects to submit an application for European regulatory approval of the Labcoat technology in the first half of this year. The company said the technology could be applied to both its Taxus Liberte and Element stent platforms.
Shares of J&J, which sells a vast array of healthcare products, were down 20 cents to $55.85 in midday trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Boston Scientific Corp (BSX.N) shares were up 12 cents to $8.95, also on the NYSE, as rival medical device maker Medtronic Inc (MDT.N) posted lower quarterly net income and issued an outlook that disappointed investors. (Reporting by Ransdell Pierson in New York and Susan Kelly in Chicago; editing by John Wallace)