HEALTH

FDA, FTC take action against fradulent ads of products for swine flu

BY Alaric DeArment

ROCKVILLE, Md. The Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission have taken action against Web sites that advertise fraudulent products for the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus, popularly known as swine flu.

The two agencies urged the public Friday to be wary of Web sites and other promotions for products that claim to diagnose, prevent, mitigate, treat or cure the virus and advising companies that operate the Web sites that they must take prompt action to correct or remove promotions of the products lest they face enforcement action.

“Consumers who purchase products to treat the novel 2009 H1N1 virus that are not approved, cleared or authorized by the FDA for the treatment or prevention of influenza risk their health and the health of their families,” FDA acting associate commissioner for regulatory affairs Michael Chappell said in a statement. “In conjunction with the Federal Trade Commission, the FDA has developed an aggressive strategy to identify, investigate and take regulatory or criminal action against individuals and businesses that wrongfully promote purported 2009 H1N1 influenza products in an attempt to take advantage of the current flu public health emergency.”

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Drugstore.com delivers in three focus areas, CEO says

BY Michael Johnsen

BELLEVUE, Wash. So far, so good. Drugstore.com on Thursday announced that it is delivering on three areas of focus in what has become an exceedingly challenging retail environment.

“I’m very pleased to announce that we’ve made substantial progresses in all [three] of these areas in the first quarter, posting one of our strongest quarters to date, despite facing a very tough economy,” Dawn Lepore, Drugstore.com CEO and chairman, told analysts Wednesday evening.

The three focal points for Drugstore.com included a focus on growing its over-the-counter and vision businesses at a faster rate than overall e-commerce; a focus on driving bottom-line improvements and a focus on incremental growth for the year.

So the scorecard so far —OTC revenue grew over 11%, well ahead of recent e-commerce industry trends, and the beauty business grew at an even faster pace, increasing 14%, despite a decline in the beauty industry.

Gross margins were at 28.2%, delivering adjusted EBITDA of $5.6 million to the bottom line, which is more than double the adjusted EBITDA the previous-year period.

“I believe our record performance in the first quarter offers evidence that we can continue to grow in a difficult economic environment, while also improving the strategic positioning of the company,” Lepore said, suggesting that the online retailer will be able to maintain its improved performance through the remainder of the year.

Looking forward, Drugstore.com plans to launch its Medco Health Solutions-branded OTC web site in the second quarter, with a notable ramp in the second half of the year. “We believe our partnership is on track and we are in active conversations with other potential partners,” Lepore said.

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CDC updates swine flu count

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA The number of confirmed swine flu cases in the United States now totals 109, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated in an update released Thursday morning. South Carolina has added 10 cases to the tally, brining the number of states affected to 11.

The state-by-state count so far includes Arizona (1), California (14), Indiana (1), Kansas (2), Massachusetts (2), Michigan (1), Nevada (1), New York (50), Ohio (1), South Carolina (10) and Texas (26), with one confirmed swine flu death in Texas.

“In response to an intensifying outbreak in the United States and internationally caused by a new influenza virus of swine origin, the World Health Organization raised the worldwide pandemic alert level to Phase 5 on April 29, 2009,” the CDC stated. A Phase 5 alert is a “strong signal that a pandemic is imminent and that the time to finalize the organization, communication and implementation of the planned mitigation measures is short.”

CDC’s Division of the Strategic National Stockpile continues to send antiviral drugs, personal protective equipment and respiratory protection devices to all 50 states and U.S. territories to help them respond to the outbreak, the agency stated. The swine influenza A (H1N1) virus is susceptible to the prescription antiviral drugs Tamiflu (oseltamivir) and Relenza (zanamivir).

In addition, the federal government and manufacturers have begun the process of developing a vaccine against this new virus, CDC stated.

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