PHARMACY

Kroger riding out economic storm with respectable third-quarter results

BY Jim Frederick

CINCINNATI People still need to eat and take their medicines.

Amid a dismal economic climate, The Kroger Co. today reported relatively healthy sales for the third quarter ended Nov. 8. Sales for the period were up 9.0 percent over the same period last year, with same-store supermarket sales rising 5.6 percent without the addition of fuel-center sales. When fuel sales are factored in, Kroger’s same-store results rose 7.8 percent.

Third-quarter net earnings were down slightly from year-ago levels, to $237.7 million, thanks in part to an after-tax charge of $15.9 million stemming from Kroger’s $25 million insurance deductible for disruption and damage caused by Hurricane Ike. Excluding the charge, third-quarter net earnings were $253.6 million, or 39 cents per diluted share, vs. $253.8 million or 37 cents per diluted share last year. 

“Kroger’s sales continue to be strong in this tough economy,” said David Dillon, chairman and chief executive officer of the 125-year-old company. Acknowledging the financial pressure customers are feeling, Dillon asserted that the company’s “focus on low prices, quality products and providing a convenient, one-stop solution for their daily needs is resonating with our customers.

“Our company’s financial strength has been a competitive advantage for several years, and is even more so in the current environment,” he added. That solid balance sheet “gives us the flexibility to continue investments in our successful ‘Customer 1st’ strategy and store base that will create value…while delivering near-term financial results.”

Kroger now operates 2,477 supermarkets and food/drug combo stores in 31 states under two dozen local banners including Kroger, Ralphs, Fred Meyer, Food 4 Less, Fry’s, King Soopers, Smith’s, Dillons, QFC and City Market. The food and pharmacy giant plans to open, expand or relocate approximately 60 stores and complete between 165 and 180 store remodels during fiscal 2008, according to company reports.

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FDA grants orphan drug status to two non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma drugs

BY Alaric DeArment

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands The Food and Drug Administration has granted orphan drug designations to Kiadis Pharma’s drug Reviroc for two types of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Kiadis announced Monday.

The FDA granted one designation for diffuse large B-cell lymphoma and one for follicular lymphoma. The drug is under development for the elimination of cancer cells from an autologous graft in bone marrow transplants for end-stage blood cancer patients.

“This is an important strategic milestone in the development of Reviroc, and we are very pleased with the orphan drug designations received from the FDA,” Kiadis chief executive officer Manja Bouman said in a statement.

The FDA gives orphan drug designations to drugs developed for treating diseases and conditions affecting fewer than 200,000 people in the United States. The designation allows for accelerated review, tax benefits, exemption from user fees and a seven-year period of market exclusivity in the U.S. after regulatory approval.

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FDA approves Boostrix vaccine for use in adults

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK The Food and Drug Administration has approved a booster vaccine for use in adults, manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline announced Monday.

GSK developed the vaccine, Boostrix (tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid and acellular pertussis vaccine, adsorbed), for use in patients aged 10 to 18 as a protection against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough; the FDA’s new approval allows for its use in patients aged 19 to 64 as well.

The new approval follows two clinical trials of 3,000 adult patients.

Sanofi-Aventis makes a similar vaccine, Adacel, for use in patients aged 11 to 64.

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