PHILADELPHIA –The more than ten million Americans who’ve received drug-eluting stents to open their blocked coronary arteries have a bright future, according to new research from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
The findings, among the first large follow-up studies to show a clear, lifesaving benefit of drug-eluting stents compared to bare metal stents, will be published in the May 27 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Patients with the drug-coated stents -- designed not only to open blocked coronary arteries but also to chemically inhibit future blockage -- were less apt to die, have heart attacks or require extra stents or bypass surgery in the two years following placement of the stent.
“This might be a hidden nugget of goodness that could not be detected in clinical trials,” says Peter W. Groeneveld, MD, MS, assistant professor in Penn’s Division of General Internal Medicine. “There is a distinct possibility that drug-eluting stents not only reduce the need for future cardiac procedures, but also save lives.”
Groeneveld and his colleagues studied Medicare data to identify about 72,000 patients who received drug-eluting stents during a nine-month period in 2003, the first year the devices were approved for use in the United States. Overall, the findings showed a clear survival benefit compared to a control group of patients who got bare metal stents -- at 90 days, 1 year and 2 years, patients with drug-coated stents were less likely to die.
In a separate study which will be published in the June issue of the American Heart Journal, Groeneveld also found that drug-eluting stents also offer cost savings during the first year after placement. Although the initial cost of the device – averaging $16,000 -- outpaces that of a bare metal stent, which costs about $14,000, the Penn researchers found that among patients with the drug-coated stents, 12 percent of those studied needed additional stents placed in the first year, compared to 15 percent of patients who received bare-metal stents. Few patients in either arm required bypass surgery in the first year following stent placement, but those who received bare-metal stents were twice as likely to need the procedure, leading to an additional cost savings of $714 per patient treated with drug-coated stents. Overall, researchers found that patients with drug-eluting stents each saved an average of $1,350 worth of follow-up care during the year, which projects a total savings of approximately $100 million dollars among the 72,000 drug-eluting stent patients studied.
The researchers note that future studies should focus on how drug therapies including clopidogrel and cholesterol-reducing statin drugs may play a role in outcomes and costs for both types of stent patients. Since recent evidence shows that clopidogrel therapy -- aimed at reducing the risk of blood clots following stent placement -- is an essential step for reducing “late” drug-eluting stent complications or failure, Groeneveld theorizes that clinical outcomes for drug-eluting stent patients might be boosted even further when patients follow an appropriate long-term drug regimen.
This work was supported by an unrestricted grant from the Institute for Health Technology Studies (InHealth), a 501(c)3 foundation based in Washington, DC.
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