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Johnson & Johnson Posts Positive Results on Stent

The company says new tests on its Cypher stent show even better results than the tests that led to its U.S. approval.

Johnson & Johnson

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said Wednesday that a new look at some previous clinical trials on a device to keep arteries clear show even better results than did the tests that led to the device's U.S. approval earlier this year.

J&J said a follow-up look at Canadian and European research shows that the company's Cypher stent cut the rate of arteries' reblocking to 5.1% after patients underwent angioplasty, a procedure that clears fatty deposits from arteries to reduce the risk of heart attacks. Stents are wire mesh tubes that are inserted into the arteries after the angioplasty has been performed. J&J's Cypher is the first drug-coated stent on the U.S. market.

J&J received approval from the Food and Drug Administration on April 24 to begin marketing Cypher. The clinical trials used to support J&J's application to the FDA showed that the stent had an 8.9% restenosis -- or reblocking -- rate.

J&J released the results of the follow-up studies after stock markets had closed. The New Brunswick, N.J.-based company said it would present more details at a Sept. 15 conference in Washington, D.C.

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This conference -- the 15th Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics Symposium -- is shaping up to be the duel of the drug-coated stents. Right now, J&J has this lucrative market all to itself. But

Boston Scientific

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is scheduled to present the results of its drug-coated stent, Taxus Express, at the conference, providing plenty of opportunity in advance for Wall Street analysts to speculate whose product will prevail.

The J&J test results released Wednesday represent pooled, follow-up data from clinical trials conducted in Canada and Europe that were financed by Cordis Corp., the J&J subsidiary that makes the stents. The tests covered 225 patients, and included a larger percentage of difficult-to-treat patients than the tests with U.S. patients that led to the device's approval. Such patients included people with small blood vessels and long lesions in the vessels, as well as smokers and people who had suffered heart attacks.

J&J has had some manufacturing and distribution problems with Cypher caused, the company says, by demand exceeding supply. It's also embroiled in a patent suit with Natick, Mass.-based Boston Scientific over the Taxus Express stent.

J&J's stock closed Wednesday at $52.04, up 1.5%, or 79 cents. Boston Scientific's stock closed at $58, up 10 cents.