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The fall and rise of drug-eluting stents

Christopher J K Hammett, Peter J Stewart and John J Atherton
Med J Aust 2011; 195 (3): 110-111.
Published online: 1 August 2011

Earlier concerns put to rest as new evidence confirms their safety and efficacy

The three sentinel developments in percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) have been the groundbreaking use of balloon angioplasty from 1977, the widespread uptake of bare metal stents (BMS) in the early 1990s, and the era of drug-eluting stents (DES) commencing in 2002. DES greatly reduce the incidence of vessel restenosis, and this has allowed the application of PCI to increasingly complex coronary anatomy that had previously been untreatable due to prohibitive restenosis rates. Uptake of this technology was immediate and widespread, with near ubiquitous use (95%) of DES for PCI in the Australian private sector by 2005 despite a fourfold higher cost and uncertain incremental cost-effectiveness over BMS.1 However, the initial unbridled optimism was tempered by case reports of “very late” stent thrombosis, and then shattered by the release of data at the 2006 World Congress of Cardiology in Barcelona suggesting DES were associated with higher mortality rates.2 This dramatically shook confidence in the use of this new technology with an immediate effect on DES use worldwide.3 In early 2007, the widely reported Clinical Outcomes Utilizing Revascularization and Aggressive Drug Evaluation (COURAGE) trial, in which outcomes were similar for medically and percutaneously treated patients with stable angina, further challenged the interventional paradigm.4

  • Christopher J K Hammett1,2
  • Peter J Stewart1
  • John J Atherton1,2

  • 1 Department of Cardiology, Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, Brisbane, QLD.
  • 2 School of Medicine, University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD.


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