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Abbott's minimally invasive heart therapy gets Japan insurance coverage

Abbott Laboratories said Japan allowed the company's MitraClip therapy — a minimally invasive procedure to treat a type of valve defect in the heart — to be covered under the national health insurance plan.

The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare granted national reimbursement for the therapy, effective April 1, allowing it to be more accessible to patients through the country's health insurance plans.

The procedure treats people with a serious, progressive heart disease in which the mitral valve does not close properly, allowing blood to flow backward into the heart. The disease, called mitral regurgitation, can be life-changing and fatal if left untreated. The standard-of-care treatments for patients with mitral regurgitation in Japan were open-heart surgery and medication. But for some patients, surgery is not a viable option because of advanced age — an increasing concern in Japan.

With the MitraClip therapy, however, doctors are able to access the mitral valve without opening the chest and temporarily stopping the heart. It uses a thin tube, called a catheter, that is guided through a vein in the leg to reach the heart. The MitraClip device is a small clip that is attached to the mitral valve, allowing it to close more completely.

The treatment was approved in Japan in 2017.