NEW YORK (CNNfn) - Centocor Inc. said its new anticlotting drug, ReoPro, when coupled with artery opening devices, can reduce the risks of death in heart disease patients by up to 57 percent.
The results, presented Monday at the 71st Scientific Sessions of the American Heart Association, are the first to demonstrate that the combined use of a pharmacologic agent and a tiny metal spiral, called a stent, used to hold open blocked arteries, provides a mortality benefit at one year.
"As shown in clinical trials, ReoPro is the first and only GPIIb/IIIa inhibitor to significantly reduce the long-term risk of death among patients undergoing stenting, representing a significant benefit for patients with ischemic heart disease," said Dr. Harlan Weisman, vice president of the company's clinical research.
"This is the first trial ever conducted in interventional cardiology to show a reduction in death," he added.
According to Centocor, ReoPro reduces the complications associated with angioplasty by preventing the formation of blood clots that often intensify during the procedure. When blood platelets encounter an injured site, such as one produced by angioplasty, they adhere to it and form a thin, protective layer.
In the study of 2,400 patients, 1 percent of patients in the ReoPro plus stent group died after one year, compared with 19 percent in the stent plus placebo group, representing a 57 percent reduction.
Moreover, the analysis of patients who actually received study treatment showed a 68 percent reduction in mortality among patients in the ReoPro plus stent group, compared with patients in the stent plus placebo group, the company said.
The drug was developed by Centocor of Malvern, Pa., and is co-marketed in the United States by Centocor and Eli Lilly and Co.
Eli Lilly & Co. (LLY) also distributes the product worldwide, except in Japan, where Fujisawa Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. will distribute it upon approval.
According to reports, stents are used in roughly 80 percent of the more than 500,000 angioplasties done in the United States each year.
Centocor's drug ReoPro already is used in about 35 percent of stent procedures.
Sales of the product are expected to reach $350 million this year, up from $250 million in 1997, according to reports.
Shares of Centocor (CNTO) finished up 3/8 at 47-1/4 Friday on the Nasdaq.