Drug coated stents are credited with preventing heart attacks while avoiding open-heart surgery. But drug-coated stents are at the center of controversy because doctors recently discovered that these particular stents made by Johnson & Johnson, Medtronic, Boston Scientific, and Abbott Laboratories sometimes are the cause of potentially fatal blood clots months or years after insertion.
Research has focused on establishing the roles for drug coating stents and for developing new types of stents. Different materials for all three components—the scaffolding, the carrier, and the drug—are being heavily investigated.
In lieu of the stainless steel currently used in stents, various biodegradable frameworks are in early phases of investigation. Since metal provokes inflammation, scarring, and thrombosis (blood clotting), biodegradable or bio-absorbable stents may prevent some of these dangerous DES effects. Currently, numerous clinical trials are being done on animals regarding the types of drug coating.
A Cleveland Clinic study, published recently in the American Journal of Medicine (AJM), concludes that drug-eluting stents are four to five times more likely than bare metal stents to induce a blood clot months or years after implantation. But, according to one of the article's authors, the conclusions of the study do not warrant an abandonment of drug-eluting stents, because other studies have shown that bare metal stents have their own problems, which are not benign.
The study said there was a small but real hazard of late stent thrombosis blood clots with drug-eluting stents more so than with bare-metal stents. More research and safer options are needed but in the meantime drug eluting stents have their place in cardiac health management.