A major study of the first two commercially available drug-releasing coronary stents has found that both appear to be safe for use in a variety of patients.
Stents are tubes used to keep previously blocked coronary arteries open.
The advent of drug-releasing stents has cut the rate of reblockage in half to about 10 percent, according to background information in the study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
But the stents were approved based on results from relatively small trials and a number of follow up studies were "challenging to interpret," according to an accompanying editorial.
This latest study of 2,098 men and women at five university hospitals in Denmark found that "the rates of serious adverse events such as cardiac death, acute myocardial infarction, and stent thrombosis were low, suggesting that, at least when considering 18 months of follow-up, the use of drug-eluting stents in the general population may be safe."
The study also found no significant difference in the effectiveness of the two stents in releasing the medications, sirolimus and paclitaxel.
A third drug-releasing stent will come onto the market in 2008, "which yielded similar or fewer major adverse cardiac events among patients," according to the editorial authored by Debabrata Mukherjee and David Moliterno of the University of Kentucky, Lexington.
"The ongoing choice of a drug-eluting stent will likely depend on multiple factors that will include safety, effectiveness, deliverability, and-given recent cuts in reimbursement-cost of the device."
The new findings follow a study released earlier this month which showed sirolimus to be better than paclitaxel at reducing the constriction of a blood vessel or heart valve in the cardiac treatment of diabetic patients.