Peter DiBattiste spent years as an interventional cardiologist clearing out heart patients’ arteries. The depressing reality: All too often the patients would be back in the hospital just a few months later with another heart attack or stroke.
Now DiBattiste finally has a chance to do something about it. As head of cardiovascular drugs at Johnson & Johnson, he is helping lead the testing of a powerful new blood thinner in late-stage tests in heart patients at J&J and Bayer. J&J hopes the drug will one day be a huge best seller, reviving its slumping drug unit.
Getting there will be tricky. Results from a mid-stage study presented at a meeting of cardiologists showed the drug, rivaroxaban, slashed heart attacks and strokes by 31% when taken with aspirin and also, in some patients, Plavix, an anti-clotting drug from Bristol-Myers Squibb and Sanofi-Aventis. But the results also showed significantly higher rates of bleeding in patients who took the drug. Very dangerous bleeding episodes took place in 1.2% of the patients studied.
Interesting. But then we are all given a glimpse into the complexity of our bodies:
There are two different ways the blood clots. Cell fragments called platelets clump together; Plavix and prasugrel block these. But there are also fibers in the blood called thrombin and fibrin that stitch the clot together. Rivaroxaban and apixiban block the formation of these by inhibiting an enzyme called factor Xa. Schering’s drug, called a thrombin receptor antagonist (TRA), blocks communication between the two systems — potentially working late in the clotting cascade and not thinning the blood as much.
Of course the, ahem, holy grail of healing is to answer this question: How did Jesus heal?