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Drug-Coated Stent Devices Making Strides in Heart Care

The study involved 1,353 patients in Europe, Latin America and Asia. Rates of heart attacks, strokes and repeat procedures were similar with both stents, reported Marie-Claude Morice of Institut Cardiovasculaire Paris Sud in France.

Cordis, which sponsored the study, said Cypher was safer because more blood clots occurred with Taxus, but Morice said the study was not big enough or designed to answer that question.

Drug-coated stents emit medication that deters vessels from reclogging. (Boston Scientific via AP)

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"No firm conclusions should be drawn" about safety, agreed Eberhard Grube, who helped with the study.

But another one led by doctors with no ties to Cordis showed Cypher clearly outperformed Taxus in 250 diabetics, whose arteries are more prone to reclogging. Problems were two to three times as frequent among those who got Taxus stents.

"These results would push us to select the Cypher stent for diabetic patients," said Adnan Kastrati of Deutsches Herzzentrum, a medical center in Munich.

Other research confirmed the effectiveness of both stents two and three years after treatment. Nearly nine out of 10 stents used in the United States are drug-coated, and two out of three are Taxus stents.

Medtronic Inc. reported that its experimental drug-coated stent, Endeavor, outperformed plain metal stents in tests on 1,197 patients. The company hopes to seek U.S. approval later this year.

The first human tests of Biometrik's experimental dissolving stent were reported. Five people received the device last July, and "absorption seems to occur within the first four weeks as planned," said Raimund Erbel of University Clinic in Essen, Germany.

Competition should make drug-coated stents cheaper, said Samin Sharma, co-director of the Cardiovascular Institute at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. They used to cost more than $3,000, sell for about $2,300 now and could drop to less than $2,000, he said.

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