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Boston Scientific, Abbott stents tie in study

Bloomberg News / October 13, 2008
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NEW YORK - Abbott Laboratories' Xience and Boston Scientific Corp.'s Taxus Liberte, the newest entrants in the $1.9 billion US market for heart stents, dueled to a tie in a study of heart attack victims.

The two stents were "equally efficient" over six months, according to researchers at a Washington medical conference Saturday. An increase in deaths in Xience patients was driven by factors unrelated to the devices, they said.

The results are another boost for Illinois-based Abbott, whose artery-clearing Xience stent has been gaining ground on rivals since it was approved for sale July 2. Natick-based Boston Scientific's Liberte, cleared on Oct. 10, will need to prove superior in new human trials to expand market share, said Philip Nalbone, an RBC Capital Markets analyst. Otherwise, Liberte "won't make a difference," Nalbone said before the new data were released.

Stents are metal tubes that prop open an artery after it's cleared of fatty deposits called plaque. Newer versions of the $2,000 devices are coated with drugs to prevent scar tissue that can reblock the blood vessel.

The Liberte joins Xience, Medtronic Inc.'s Endeavor, and Johnson & Johnson's Cypher in an increasingly crowded market. Boston Scientific also sells a version of Xience called Promus under a licensing deal that gives Abbott 40 percent of the profit.

Since debuting in July, Xience and Promus have captured 40 percent of the US stent market, said Rick Wise, a Leerink Swann & Co. analyst. The number is likely to rise to 50 percent by next July, with Abbott's version claiming almost three-quarters of sales, Wise wrote.

Doctors predicted Boston's Taxus line of stents will stay steady at 29 percent over the next year, even with Liberte.

In a study of 335 heart attack victims, 3.2 percent of patients given a Xience stent died within a month, compared with 1.3 percent of Taxus Liberte users, according to researchers at Rotterdam's Medical Centre Rijnmond-South. At six months, with 185 people left in the trial, the figures were 6.9 percent and 2.3 percent, respectively. The studies, funded by the hospital, were presented yesterday.

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