Armenian Government Allocates $1.1 Million to Launch Program Offering
Free Coronary Stents to Qualified Patients

Yeranuhi Soghoyan
10:53, December 29, 2014


The Armenian government has allocated 500 million AMD (US$1.1 million)
to launch a coronary stent program that will be offered in the Gyumri
Medical Center, as well as one other regional medical center plus four
in Yerevan.

The program, "One Free Stent for Life" will allow qualified
individuals who can't afford either bare metal stents (1.1 million
AMD) or a drug-eluting stent (1.6 million AMD) to get one bare metal
stent installed at no charge. Those seeking a drug-eluting stent will
have to pay 150,000 drams.

Since May 1, 2014, some 100 patients have received stents at the
Gyumri Medical Center after interventional cardiologist Karen
Mikayelyan relocated to Gyumri. Prior to this, the procedure had been
performed by specialists invited from Yerevan.

A drug-eluting stent (DES) is a peripheral or coronary stent (a
scaffold) placed into narrowed, diseased peripheral or coronary
arteries which slowly releases a drug to block cell proliferation.
This prevents fibrosis that, together with clots (thrombi), could
otherwise block the stented artery, a process called restenosis.

They are more expensive than mere bare metal stents whose recipients
must take various drugs continuously after the procedure.

Gyumri Medical Center Director Armen Isahakyan (photo) says the new
program will help save the lives of those who have suffered heart
attacks but have stayed at home since they don't have the money to pay
for such invasive procedures.

"Of course, patients with the necessary funds would prefer a
drug-eluting stent," says Mr. Isahakyan. "But this doesn't mean that
the function of bare metal stents is less."

Director Isahakyan complains that the Gyumri Center ends the year with
6 million AMD in debt, of which close to 3.6 million is due to
patients who have received invasive procedures but haven't paid their
bills at all or merely in part.

The center plans to take former patients to court for non-payment. Mr.
Isahakyan says they will not prosecute one non-paying patient who died
after receiving a drug-eluting stent given that it would be immoral.

Isahakyan says one other stent recipient hasn't paid anything,
claiming he's broke and two others have partially paid for the
procedure.

Stent procedures at the Gyumri Medical Center are less expensive than
Yerevan, Moscow and many European countries. Mr. Isahakyan is quick to
point out that this doesn't mean the center uses cheaper stents.

"We all purchase stents from the same company. There's no difference
in quality. What makes the procedure cheaper here, sadly, is the lower
physician cost. You can go to a clinic in Yerevan and get a
drug-eluting stent installed for 1.9 million drams. At our center it
costs 300,000 less. It's also related to the size of the medical
staff," says Mr. Isahakyan.

Director Isahakyan isn't worried that the center will be swamped with
patients once the new program starts.

"Our cardiologist performs around twelve stent procedures on average
per month. Even if the number of applicants goes up by 50% come
January, I see no cause for concern. Naturally, we need another
cardiologist on staff to take over when our one and only cardiologist
is away, say on vacation," says Isahakyan, adding that they've arrived
at a temporary solution by entering into an agreement with Yerevan's
Nork Marash Medical Center whereby their cardiologist will either fill
in or assist if there is a patient backlog.


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