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Decision Resources projects blockbuster sales for Gilenia

BY Alaric DeArment

WALTHAM, Mass. An investigational drug for treating multiple sclerosis has a shot at becoming a top seller, according to a new report by Decision Resources.

The healthcare market research firm said that according to a report on MS drugs, Novartis’ and Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma’s pill Gilenia (fingolimod) would achieve peak-year sales of more than $1 billion in the United States, Japan and several European countries following its expected approval. A Food and Drug Administration advisory committee recommended the drug’s approval last week, though FDA advisory committee recommendations are not binding. If approved, Novartis said, Gilenia would become the first oral treatment for the disease.

“The FDA advisory committee provided a strong show of confidence in Gilenia when it voted unanimously that the drug is safe and effective,” Decision Resources analyst Jonathan Searles said. “It also voted against language recommending that Gilenia should only be prescribed after patients fail first-line therapies.”

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Stock repurchase program at CVS Caremark approved

BY Allison Cerra

WOONSOCKET, R.I. CVS Caremark has announced that its board of directors has approved a new share repurchase program for up to $2 billion of its outstanding common stock.

The share repurchase authorization expires at the end of 2011 and permits the company to effect the repurchases from time to time through a combination of open market repurchases, privately negotiated transactions, accelerated share repurchase transactions and/or other derivative transactions.

The company also stated that during second quarter 2010 it repurchased approximately 16.7 million shares of common stock for approximately $613 million, completing the $2 billion repurchase program authorized in November 2009.

Dave Denton, EVP and CFO of CVS Caremark, stated, “We’re very pleased with the board’s approval of this new share repurchase program and believe it reflects well-placed confidence in the future growth of CVS Caremark’s business and an ongoing commitment to increase shareholder value. We’re very focused on the efficient allocation of capital and we will continue to invest in internal projects that meet our return hurdles and use the rest of our remaining free cash flow to increase shareholder value.”

Denton continued, “Over the next five years, we expect to generate significantly more free cash flow than what we’ve generated in the past five years, and we expect to use the majority of that free cash flow in the near-term to enhance shareholder returns through dividends and share repurchases. We intend to continue to review our dividend annually and do share repurchases that are value enhancing.”

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Bartell launches contest in line with anniversary celebration

BY Alaric DeArment

SEATTLE As it gears up to celebrate its 120th anniversary this year, Bartell Drugs is launching a “Magical History Tour” contest at its stores, the regional retail pharmacy chain said Monday.

Bartell, the oldest operating retail pharmacy chain in the country, is collaborating with HistoryLink.org and The Seattle Times’ “Newspapers in Education” program. The contest will focus on facts about the history of the Puget Sound area, the section of Washington state that includes the area around Seattle and King, Snohomish and Pierce counties.

Through Aug. 23, a new clue will be released each Monday at HistoryLink.org/Bart and in the Monday edition of The Seattle Times. “Bart,” Bartell’s historic delivery truck character, will provide clues to historical sites in the Puget Sound area where answers can be found. Contestants submitting weekly answers will be entered into drawings for prizes, which will include a family pass to Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo.

“This fun activity is both an opportunity to learn something about our area and a way of getting the family out and about this summer in an enjoyable way,” Bartell chairman and CEO George Bartell said.

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