ATLANTA -- Johnson & Johnson's ( JNJ) Cypher stent fared better in heart attack patients than Boston Scientific's ( BSX) Taxus, according to data presented at the American College of Cardiology's annual meeting Monday.However, while the Cypher stent was more effective at keeping blood vessels open and clear of plaque, researchers didn't come to a conclusion on whether the stent was safer than the Taxus. Both are considered to be safe. The trial involving 331 patients was conducted by independent researchers led by Dr. Jae-Hwan Lee of Chungnam National University Hospital in Korea and wasn't sponsored by J&J. Neither stent is currently approved for use in heart attack patients. Another trial presented at the ACC meeting showed that, in heart attack patients, the Cypher was significantly more successful than bare-metal stents in reducing the risk of tissue regrowth in blood vessels that have been cleared of a blockage and then propped open with the devices. One year after the stents were implanted, patients who received a Cypher were 49% less likely to see tissue regrowth in the target artery than those fitted with a bare-metal stent, the trial found. Specifically, 7.3% of Cypher patients saw regrowth, while 14.3% of bare-metal stent patients had revascularization, which would suggest the need for a repeat procedure. The benefits of using drug-eluting stents, which are coated with drugs intended to prevent the reblockage of arteries, have already been established, but the new findings involve a specific, high-risk group of patients. Some doctors already put the Cypher stent in heart attack patients, but many others have refused to use it for that indication without further data, according to Dr. Brian Firth, vice president of medical affairs at J&J's Cordis division. Now that the data are available, Firth expects to see some added use in heart attack patients, even though regulators haven't cleared it for that condition. By law, doctors can prescribe a product or drug as they see fit once it has been cleared for any one purpose.
Firth said Cordis hopes the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will decide to provide reimbursements for using the stent in heart attack patients. With the new data, along with the results from other Cypher trials, Cordis could be closer to seeing that become a reality. Meanwhile, Boston Scientific said data from a group of almost 500 insulin-treated diabetics pointed to improved survival rates and fewer overall major cardiac problems for patients who received a Taxus stent vs. those who got a Cypher. The patients were a subgroup of a larger study. The overall trial involved a registry of 5,566 patients at eight U.S. coronary centers who received either a Taxus Express2 or a Cypher stent system. Of those patients, 1,182 were diabetic. "In insulin-treated diabetics there is a slight separation in outcomes favoring the Taxus stent system, although this did not reach statistical significance," said Charles Simonton, chairman of the executive steering committee for the registry. "We plan continued enrollment to further investigate this apparent difference in outcomes." Shares of J&J tacked on 4 cents to $59.08, while Boston Scientific rose 14 cents to $22.76.