Having introduced a promising new drug-coated device, the Cypher stent, to treat heart disease nearly a year before anyone else in the U.S., Johnson & Johnson (J&J) may be losing ground to the competition. In March 2004, Boston Scientific introduced the Taxus stent and reports that it has captured 70% of new orders.
A spokesman for the Cordis unit of J&J says that doctors are still deciding which device they prefer.
The cylindrical, mesh-like stents are used to help prop open coronary arteries, prevent heart attacks, and decrease the need for further surgery by reducing the scarring that can re-block arteries.
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Physicians seem to find the Taxus stent easier to use and less expensive. Some also say that interventional cardiologists as a group tend to be eager to try new devices.
J&J’s main blunder appears to have been its inability to make enough Cypher stents early on, but the company says that there is no shortage today.
The FDA has been reviewing some reports of technical problems with Taxus because, in some cases, part of the device became stuck in patients’ arteries. The company believes that problems will disappear after physicians gain experience in using the stent.