Monday, January 09, 2006
New Angiotech product designed to fight infections
By LEONARD ZEHR
Thursday, January 5, 2006 Page B2
Moving to shed its image of a one-product company, Angiotech Pharmaceuticals Inc. is expanding its line of biomaterials with a drug-coated catheter designed to reduce hospital infections.
Best known for its drug-coated stents, which prop open blocked coronary arteries, Angiotech is expected to announce today that it has begun a pivotal clinical trial in the United States of a central venous catheter (CVC) coated with the chemotherapy drug 5-Flourouracil (5-FU).
CVCs are inserted into very ill patients to administer fluids, drugs and nutrients and withdraw blood, but they pose a risk of infection by bacteria contaminating the surface of the catheter.
Infections that reach the bloodstream can become life threatening.
According to industry estimates, there are about 3.5 million CVC procedures in the United States each year, resulting in up to 250,000 related infections and 40,000 deaths.
"This is a really big market," said Rui Avelar, a doctor and Angiotech's chief medical officer. "Infections can be devastating if they happen with hip and knee replacement surgery and implanting a pacemaker."
The company figures the annual cost of caring for patients with CVC-associated infections in the United States is about $2.3-billion (U.S.).
He said minute quantities of 5-FU can be an effective anti-bacterial agent.
"We think [this product] kills a wide variety of bugs. Because it isn't an antibiotic, we are not contributing to an increase of antibiotic resistant bacteria and we have shown that it blocks creation of biofilm."
Biofilms are an important survival tool for bacteria and are associated with antibiotic resistance in some bacterial infections.
Dr. Avelar said some CVCs are now coated with antibiotics. "If you can come up with an anti-infective that isn't an antibiotic, you are head and shoulders above everybody else."
Angiotech's one-year CVC study will enroll 600 patients at 20 clinics in the United States.
"The use of 5-FU as an anti-infective coating to prevent catheter-related bloodstream infections is innovative and unique," said Dr. Stephen Heard, lead investigator for the trial and chairman of the department of anesthesiology at the University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center.
For Angiotech, anti-infective products represent another step in diversifying the company's revenue base.
The company derives about 90 per cent of its revenue -- estimated at $200-million in 2005 -- from royalties on the sale of the Taxus drug-coated stent, which shaped a $5-billion-a-year industry.
"People can't see beyond the Taxus stent, even though we're doing a lot of other things," Dr. Avelar said.
It has commercialized surgical sealants to control bleeding and adhesive gels to prevent tissue adhesion after surgery.
Besides biomaterials, such as stents, to prevent scarring and a vascular wrap in clinical testing to prevent the narrowing of blood vessels, the company is developing products to accelerate healing and treat localized tumours from recurring after surgery with a drug-coated biomaterial.
"New competitors in drug-coated stents are not likely before 2008 and our initiatives will hit in 2007 and 2008," he said.