Stent implant use on the decline

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Use of coronary stents in the United States saw a major decline in the month of April in response to a study released in March that downplayed the effectiveness of stent implants, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The study unveiled in March — the Clinical Outcomes Utilizing Revascularization and Aggressive Drug Evaluation (COURAGE) trial — found that medical devices such as stents are not more effective than medications to help heart patients extend their lives or to avoid heart attacks. Results of the study also showed a similar rate of death, heart attack and stroke regardless if stents were used or not used.

The decline last month could indicate the end of an era in which stents were a major driver in the medical marketplace. According to the WSJ, patients spent nearly $14 billion on coronary stent procedures in 2006, and global sales were around $6 billion.

In April, the number of stentings dropped over 10 percent from March figures and over 15 percent from the same period in 2006. Of the major players in the stent market, Boston Scientific said it believes the impact of the COURAGE findings will be temporary while others such as Abbott Laboratories disputed that there was a decline based on its own numbers.

"We've definitely seen a decline," William O'Neill, a cardiologist at the University of Miami medical school, told the Journal. He added that the study "is causing some people to think that angioplasty is unnecessary.”

O’Neill indicated that he believes more patients will now be treated via drug-based methods rather than surgery.