In the stent world today, it's good news, good news, and bad news. First, the bad news: Last year's fourth quarter was the worst in several years for drug-coated stents. In December, only 62 percent of stent procedures used a coated device; that's compared with 80 percent as recently as mid-2006. You'll recall that sales of these stents dropped precipitously after some studies showed they might increase the risk of blood clotting; since then, additional studies have shown that the drug-eluting stents are actually safer for some patients, though they're not recommended for others.
Next, some good news: It looks as if the market has bottomed out, so there's nowhere to go but up for coated stents. At least that's the Wall Street Journal's estimation of the figures; as a percentage of stent procedures, the coated versions accounted for 68 percent in July, 66 percent in August, and 62 percent for each month until year's end.
Meanwhile, Medtronic got some good news from the FDA. The device maker got the nod to sell its new Endeavor drug-coated stent; in this case, the tiny mesh tube is coated in zotarolimus, a clog-prevention drug developed specifically for use on a stent. That may not be such great news for stent-makers Boston Scientific and Johnson & Johnson, which have suffered as sales declined. But perhaps they'll be comforted by the fact that Medtronic will soon have to join them in competing with a new rival; FDA is expected to give the go-ahead to another coated stent, the Xience V, sold jointly by Abbott Laboratories and Boston Scientific.