Johnson & Johnson to Stop Manufacturing Drug-Coated Heart Stents

Johnson & Johnson has announced that it will be dropping one of its medical devices from production – by the end of 2011, the company will cease manufacturing its drug-coated heart stents. The company explains its decision was due its decreasing market share in the heart stent category; Johnson & Johnson is looking to funnel the newly freed funds into developing other medical products.

Johnson & Johnson’s drug-coated heart stents were manufactured in conjunction with Cordis, its subsidiary. Cordis’s Cypher stent was the first drug-coated heart stent approved by the FDA. However, by the end of this year, it will no longer be manufactured. Likewise, Cordis will halt its research and development of a new stent, the Nevo stent.

The sale of drug-coated heart stents represents a $4 billion market, which previously had been divided between Johnson & Johnson/Cordis, Boston Scientific, Medtronic, and Abbott Laboratories. However, Cordis’s portion of that market has been decreasing. In 2006, Cordis made $2.6 billion globally from the sale of drug-coated stents, whereas last year it only made $627 million.

This decrease in Cordis’s stent sales could be explained by an increasingly competitive market; as more companies enter the heart stent arena, the more money Johnson & Johnson loses to competitors. And with a recent loss in its’ patent infringement appeal, Johnson & Johnson lost its attempts to keep “unlicensed” competitors from flooding the market.

However, Johnson & Johnson is trying to turn its departure from the stent manufacturing business into a positive, stating that it will now “turn [its] attention toward other potential areas that would enhance cardiovascular health for patients.” This statement reflects the sense among the medical community that many heart stent placements are viewed as unnecessary and are overused as a form of treatment.

Stents are small devices installed into one’s blood vessels; their purpose is to help keep the heart’s arteries open and blood flowing through. However, medical research has indicated that many doctors have been overusing heart stents without always achieving the goal of preventing strokes or heart attacks. It has been suggested that drugs might in fact be a cheaper, less invasive, and more effective means of preventing cardiac disease.

The company hopes to divert the money previously spent on researching and manufacturing stents into more profitable areas. Yet, taking itself out of such a lucrative market might not be the smartest move for the manufacturing giant. However, following the series of Children’s Tylenol recalls the company suffered last May, it might not hurt to take a conservative attitude towards its medical marketing business. Its competitor, Medtronic, has been the subject of several medical device liability lawsuits regarding its cardiac leads.

Likewise, this past May the FDA recalled Boston Scientific’s Innova Self-Expanding Stent system. The Boston Scientific stents were recalled after many doctors and patients complained that the stents were not deploying during implantation. The failure to deploy tends to result in vessel wall injury and could result in emergency surgery to remove a stent that only partially deployed. However, it seems that the deployment issue only affects the actual implantation of the device; once the stent is in place it seems to function properly. Yet the increased surgical time and unnecessary risk caused by improper deployment of the Boston Scientific stents could result in some product liability lawsuits for the medical device manufacturer.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois medical device liability cases for more than 35 years in and around Chicago, Cook County, and surrounding areas, including Chicago’s Bridgeport, Antioch, Warrenville, Bolingbrook, Plainview, Bridgeview, Crestwood and Alsip.

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