Considering Guidant's ( GDT) recall woes last year and the bidding war Boston Scientific ( BSX) ultimately won for the medical-device maker, investors might be forgiven if they temporarily forgot that stents and defibrillators weren't all there was to cardiac care. The American College of Cardiology's annual meeting, beginning this weekend in Atlanta, will serve to remind everyone that heart care is a much broader field, because one of the main focuses of the gathering will be on drugs for heart attacks and other vascular conditions. While the ACC meeting doesn't have the hype machine of the American Society of Clinical Oncology's yearly extravaganza, it's at least equally important. After all, heart disease is still the leading cause of death in the U.S.
Old Is New Again
New treatments for heart disease will certainly be discussed at the cardiology conference in Atlanta, but a recurring theme will be companies that are trying to find additional uses for existing drugs. For instance, Medicines Co. ( MDCO) is pitting its drug Angiomax against heparin in treating what are called "acute coronary syndromes," a group of conditions that includes angina and heart attacks. Heparin is commonly used to break up blood clots that can lead to those conditions, but it's also associated with serious side effects, such as bruising and bleeding -- bleeding that can be fatal in up to 2% of patients who receive it. Medicines wants to show that Angiomax can treat the same clots, but more safely than heparin. Angiomax is currently approved as a blood thinner for patients preparing for a procedure known as percutaneous coronary intervention. During the procedure, plaque in a clogged artery is pushed out of the way to promote free blood flow. The market for clot-fighting drugs is worth about $3 billion a year, according to the Cambridge Healthtech Institute. Medicines expects to report the initial results of a head-to-head comparison at the ACC on Sunday. The trial enrolled more than 13,800 patients who were smokers, have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or a family history of heart disease.