Not only do stent makers have to fight with their peers over which stent is the best, now they have to fight drugmakers, too.

New data suggests that drugs work just as well as (and are cheaper than) angioplasty procedures that include inserting stents to keep the vessels open. That could be bad news for drug-eluting stent makers Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), Abbott Labs (NYSE:ABT), Medtronic (NYSE:MDT), and Boston Scientific (NYSE:BSX).

The study looked at patients who were stable, but had chest pain -- called angina. The patients receiving drugs alone did just as well as those who got angioplasties plus stents.

While this new data might encourage doctors to try medications like GlaxoSmithKline's (NYSE:GSK) beta-blocker Coreg or CV Therapeutics' (NASDAQ:CVTX) Ranexa before they try an invasive procedure, there are a couple of reasons I don’t think it will result in too big of a decline in angioplasty procedures.

First, patients generally don't like taking daily medication -- especially if it isn't giving them immediate relief from their ailment. Second, angioplasty plus stents work well. Patients enter the hospital with chest pain and leave without it. It's hard to put a price tag on that kind of service. Also, this study was performed only on a subset of patients; those who are less stable would end up having invasive procedures, as drugs would take too long to work.

Drug-eluting stents have had their fair share of turbulence over the past few years; they’ve been called less safe than their bare-metal cousins and have been dealing with increased competition. While this is something to keep an eye on, I don't think this study will have much of a negative effect on the use of drug-eluting stents.

More Foolishness to prop you up:

J&J and Glaxo are Income Investor recommendations. To see how dividend-paying stocks can offer both secure income and the opportunity for growth, take a free look at this newsletter with a 30-day free trial.

Fool contributor Brian Orelli, Ph.D., doesn't own shares of any company mentioned in this article. CV Therapeutics is a Rule Breakers recommendation. The Fool has a disclosure policy.