nullAmid all the data on stents pouring out of a cardiology meeting in Barcelona this week, the Health Blog’s curiosity was piqued by Johnson & Johnson’s unusual announcement of a deal to distribute some bare-metal stents in development by Medinol of Israel.

In the U.S., bare-metal stents have about as much pizazz as bulky cathode-ray TVs; drug-coated stents are the flat-panel plasma screens of cardiac devices. Drug-coated stents tend to carry less risk of re-clogging arteries than the bare-metal kind. But the old-school, uncoated stents have been getting used more lately as concerns have grown that the drug-coated variety can lead to rare but dangerous blood clots long after the devices are implanted. Bare-metal stents appear to have a lower risk for that problem.

A recent report showed that in the U.S. drug-coated stents were used 69.7% of the time in April compared with 90% last June.

The Health Blog reached Chris Allman, a spokesman for J&J’s Cordis unit, in Barcelona, and he told us the Medinol deal will help J&J meet the demand for bare-metal stents — especially overseas. “If you look outside the U.S., almost 50% of stents that are used are bare-metal stents,” he said. “Until the agreement yesterday we weren’t really participating in that portion of the market.”

Sanford C. Bernstein medical devices analyst Bruce Nudell wrote in a note to investors that the Medinol stents could be on the market in Europe during the second half of this year and by the end of next year in the U.S.

J&J gained FDA approval of the first cardiac stent, the Palmaz-Schatz bare-metal stent, in 1994. Cordis’s product catalog carries a lot of cardiac plumbing gear, but you won’t find a bare-metal stent there anymore because the company has focused on selling a drug-coated stent Cypher (pictured, upper left).

The ultimate twist in the deal is that Medinol partnered for a decade with Boston Scientific, J&J’s stent archrival. Two years ago Boston Scientific agreed to pay Medinol $750 million to settle claims that it broke their contract and stole technology from the closely held Israeli company.