December 29, 2010
Many medical devices cause a far greater clinical impact than pharmaceutical therapies such as statins and chemotherapies. For example, ICDs have a dramatic life-saving capability, but for only a small portion of the patients receiving an ICD. Likewise, coronary stents improvement survival in patients with acute MI, but merely alleviate angina in most other patients.
A new device, unknown to most doctors, currently being investigated in Australia, Europe, and South America, could confer the most dramatic clinical benefit to the largest group of patients in the history of medical devices. That device is the Ardian renal artery/nerve ablation catheter to treat essential hypertension, recently acquired by Medtronic.
Medications to treat high blood pressure deliver tens of billions in revenue to the pharmaceutical companies, yet the magnitude of effect is just a few millimeters of mercury reduction in hypertension. In a small, but well designed, trial of the Ardian device, improvements in blood pressure of the magnitude of 30 mmHg were seen in almost all patients. If these data hold up, and safety concerns do not arise, this device would turn the hypertension market upside down, to the dismay of Big Pharma. Total medical costs could be reduced as well if damage to the kidneys, eyes, and hearts of millions of patients are avoided.
Matthews Chacko, MD, Director of Peripheral Vascular Intervention at Johns Hopkins, discusses this device, the data in The Lancet, and his thoughts on safety and efficacy.