Medtronic: For the Broken-Hearted

Patients in the U.S. considering the implantation of a drug-eluting stent that slowly releases medicine may soon have another option. Earlier in the week, Medtronic (NYSE: MDT  ) announced positive clinical trial results for its drug-eluting Endeavor IV coronary stent. The stent was part of a trial that produced comparable results between the Endeavor IV and Boston Scientific's (NYSE: BSX  ) Taxus stent.

Medtronic expects data on the Endeavor to be reviewed by the FDA in the fall, and the company is hoping for approval prior to the close of the calendar year. But a smooth road is anything but guaranteed. The industry as a whole has faced skepticism as to the safety of drug-eluting stents, and Abbott Laboratories (NYSE: ABT  ) is challenging Medtronic in court.

Abbott, which is working to bring its own drug-eluting stent to the U.S. market in the first half of 2008, filed an injunction last week claiming patent infringement and seeking to block the sale of Medtronic stents, including Endeavor and Medtronic's primary bare-metal stent, known as Driver.

Medtronic's vascular business segment has been growing as net sales in this area grew 28% from FY06 to FY07. Vascular sales now account for 10% of the company's sales, up from 8% in the previous two fiscal years.

While an injunction would prove damaging to Medtronic, it should not be a primary concern for shareholders. There is no question that Medtronic remains a leader in the pacemaker market, and the company's cardiac rhythm disease management (CRDM) segment now accounts for 40% of the company's net sales. The overall diversity of the company's portfolio is impressive and offers investors added protection. The outcome of the tests on Endeavor IV give this stock an added upside and demonstrates the company's uncanny ability to seek out new growth opportunities.

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Fool contributor Billy Fisher does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Fool has a world-class disclosure policy.


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