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Stent fails test, won't go forward

Device by J&J unit shown to be inferior to Boston Scientific's

NEW YORK -- Conor Medsystems, a maker of heart stents that was recently acquired by Johnson & Johnson Inc., said its CoStar drug-infused stent failed in a clinical trial against Boston Scientific's Taxus Express drug-coated stent.

Stents are tiny wire mesh tubes that act as scaffolding inside plaque-congested arteries to keep them open. The drug coating helps prevent the artery from reclogging by keeping tissue from growing through the mesh.

Conor said it would stop ongoing clinical trials and stop applying for Food and Drug Administration marketing approval for the stent. J&J also will pull it off the shelves in Europe, Asia, and Latin America, where it is already approved. J&J bought Conor this year for $1.4 billion.

The clinical trial showed that, after eight months, CoStar was inferior to Taxus in reducing major adverse cardiac events. While rates of heart attack and death were similar between the two stents, J&J spokeswoman Susan Odenthal explained, CoStar had higher rates of target vessel revascularization, or when symptoms recur somewhere in the treated blood vessel.

J&J said lost sales and the CoStar recall will lower full-year earnings by 2 to 3 cents per share. The company reiterated its full-year earnings outlook of $4.02 to $4.07 per share. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial expect earnings per share of $4.05.

Conor said the dose of the drug used to coat the stent, the cancer drug paclitaxel, was not effective. Taxus also uses paclitaxel as a stent coating. The CoStar differs from other drug-coated stents in that it uses tiny reservoirs built into the stent to release the drug.

Angiotech Pharmaceuticals Inc., the company that supplies paclitaxel to Natick-based Boston Scientific, saw its shares jump more than 5 percent, to $6.89.

J&J plans to continue developing the stent using the drug sirolimus, the same coating used on its Cypher stent.

The Taxus and Cypher stents are battling for supremacy in the $3 billion US stent market. Other companies trying to break into the market include Abbott Laboratories and Medtronic Inc.

The drug-coated stent market has suffered setbacks over the past year on reports the devices cause clots more often than uncoated stents.

The public perception of stents also received a blow at a recent meeting of the American College of Cardiology. A study showed stents failed to reduce deaths or heart attacks versus standard drug treatments. Critics called the study flawed because stents are intended to alleviate chest pains and restore quality of life.