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Editorial: Drug-Eluting Stents Causing Needless Deaths

Two cardiologists, in a guest editorial on the American College of Cardiology Web site, claim that drug-eluting stents are causing 2,160 deaths per year due to clotting, reports the New York Times. Drs. Sanjay Kaul and George A.

Diamond of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles say that drug-eluting stents are the proper course of treatment for many patients, but that they are being used too often in patients for whom bare-metal stents or drug therapies would work just as well. At issue is the effects of the polymer used to elute the restenosis-preventing drug. The polymer remains in the body after the drug is gone, causing clotting in some patients. Such complaints began to surface last month, and Cordis, maker of Cypher, one of two drug-eluting stents available in the United States, issued a statement calling such findings "not consistent with the conclusions of a much broader body of data." The debate is valid, though Kaul's comments to the Times comparing drug-eluting stents to Vioxx are, for now, not. Let's hope technological advances render this issue moot. New generations of drug-eluting stents are in development. Some don't use polymers to elute their drugs. And some elute more than one drug, allowing their makers to add an anti-clotting drug to the mix. Either, in theory, would solve the problem. One more thought. Would the Times have written an article had Kaul and Diamond editorialized that drug-eluting stents posed no safety problems? I would doubt it.

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