Vietnam successfully tests homemade stents in heart surgeries

By Le Phuong   October 28, 2018 | 07:04 pm PT
Made-in-Vietnam stents successfully tested in HCMC’s Cho Ray Hospital can help reduce angioplasty costs significantly, medial experts say.

The stents were produced by a medical equipment company in Vietnam that began working on it in 2013 with the assistance of cardiac specialists including Professor Thach Nguyen from the U.S. and Professor Nguyen Thanh Nhan, Chairman of the Association of Cardiovascular Intervention in Ho Chi Minh City.

In 2016, after the Ministry of Health approved the device, Cho Ray Hospital was the first to experiment with it.

Dr. Nguyen Thuong Nghia, Director of Cardiology Interventions Faculty at Cho Ray Hospital, said 44 patients volunteered to try the homemade stents.

After more than a year of testing, the stents, coated with coronary artery medicine also made in Vietnam, have proved successful, with no patients experiencing further blocks or other incidents, Nghia said.

If Vietnam starts making stent, it will cut down the stent expenses down for 30-40 percent. Photo by A.Q

If Vietnam starts making stent, it will cut down the stent expenses down for 30-40 percent. Photo taken at the stent production facility by A.Q.

Percutaneous Coronary Intervention with stent, or PCI, formerly known as angioplasty with stent, is a non-surgical procedure that uses a catheter (a thin flexible tube) to place a small structure called a stent to open up blood vessels in the heart that have been narrowed by plaque buildup, a condition known as atherosclerosis.

There are two types of coronary stents: normal and drug-coated stent. Coated stents can significantly reduce the rate of clot recurrence after coronary intervention.

"So far, the results of clinical trials are very promising. Stents produced in Vietnam are very competitive with imported ones from the United States and Europe," said Nghia.

After the successful experiment at Cho Ray Hospital, more than 250 patients from other hospitals public hospitals in the city like Thong Nhat Hospital, Ho Chi Minh City Medicine Hospital, Gia Dinh People Hospital, and Hospital E in Hanoi have tried the drug-coated device and seen positive results.

Nghia said the stent is a high-tech medical product that is currently made by just 40 companies in the world.

The device is similar to a spring that is inserted into the clogged blood vessels, allowing blood to flow smoothly. Stents placed in the blood vessels will stay there for life, so strict production conditions are required, ensuring safety for the users.

Vietnam spends millions of dollars on importing medical equipment and devices every year, and this significantly increases costs of procedures, including surgeries.

It has been estimated that Vietnam’s health insurance sector spends around $43 million a year on stent products and angioplasty.

In Southeast Asia, only Singapore has been able to produce stents thanks to the technology being imported from Switzerland.

If Vietnam starts making stents, it will cut down the device’s costs by 30-40 percent, reducing the financial burden on patients.

After meeting domestic demand, Vietnam will export stent to other countries. Photo by A.Q

After meeting domestic demand, Vietnam will export stent to other countries. Photo taken at the stent production facility by A.Q.

On average, each operation involving stents costs a patient VND70-100 million ($3,000 - $4,280). Although it is partially paid for by health insurance, this is still too pricey for poor patients. Every year, Cho Ray Hospital alone has about 20,000 patients in need of coronary artery stent placements.

Coronary artery disease is the leading cause of death in the world. Narrowing coronary arteries due to plaque or vasoconstriction reduces blood flow to the heart muscle, causing myocardial ischemia. If the plaque ruptures, it will activate blood clotting and platelet aggregation, leading to clot formation in veins, which can escalate to very dangerous heart attacks.

Made-in-Vietnam drug-coated stents are complete and waiting to be licensed by the Ministry of Health for mass circulation and distribution in the market. After meeting domestic demand, Vietnam will export stents to other countries, said a representative of the manufacturing company.

According to Health Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien, there are about 170 medical equipment manufacturers in the country, offering many quality products.

The Ministry of Health, Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Industry and Trade have jointly worked on and proposed several measures to support the production of medical equipment and devices in Vietnam.

X-rays, electric scalpels and patient monitoring devices have been researched and manufactured in the country, but have had difficulty in finding export markets and competing with foreign products.

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