PHARMACY

Walgreens sees strong Rx sales in March

BY Jim Frederick

DEERFIELD, Ill. Sales in Walgreens’ stores rose 6.8% over prior-year levels in March, to $5.46 billion, aided by continuing strong demand for prescription medicines at the chain and favorable calendar comparisons with last year’s March selling period.

Same-store sales at the drug store giant were up 1.5% overall – a respectable performance in the midst of a deep recession – thanks to a strong, 5.7% jump in same-store pharmacy sales. The rise in comp-store pharmacy sales came despite a 2.8% negative impact to top-line sales made by generic drug introductions, which yield lower revenues despite their higher gross margin contribution relative to brand name drug sales.

By contrast, front-end sales in stores open more than a year fell 5.6%, reflecting the deep bite that the economic downturn has taken out of consumer demand in recent months.

Total sales at the prescription counter rose 10.2 percent over March 2008 levels, and accounted for 66.6% of Walgreens’ total sales for the month. Total prescriptions filled at comparable stores increased 4.9 percent in March.

Walgreens opened 69 drug stores in March, including 11 relocations, and as of the end of the month operated 7,233 locations in 49 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam. That includes 6,736 drug stores, 573 more than a year ago.

Wall Street welcomed the company’s report on March results, driving Walgreens’ stock price ahead more than 4% in early trading Thursday.

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Pharmaxis announces completion of phase 3 trial for CF drug

BY Alaric DeArment

SYDNEY, Australia An Australian company announced Tuesday that it had finished the first part of an international phase 3 trial of a drug for cystic fibrosis.

Pharmaxis said the final patient in the trial of the inhaled drug Bronchitol (mannitol) had finished a final clinical visit, and the trial was running on time and on budget. Results of the trial are expected to be available later this month.

“We are very pleased to announce this major milestone for Pharmaxis and look forward to the results of the study with great interest,” Pharmaxis CEO Alan Robertson said. “It is hoped that Bronchitol will change the therapeutic landscape for people living with cystic fibrosis and provide a new therapeutic regimen that helps to prolong life.”

A second phase 3 clinical trial is recruiting in the United States, Canada, Argentina, Germany, Belgium and France, Pharmaxis said. The Food and Drug Administration and European Medicines Agency have given Bronchitol orphan drug designation due to the lack of effective treatments for cystic fibrosis.

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Court finds that Watson’s ADHD drug patent is valid

BY Alaric DeArment

CORONA, Calif. The U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware ruled Monday that Watson Pharmaceuticals’ generic version of an ADHD drug does not infringe the branded drug maker’s patent.

Watson announced the court ruling Tuesday, saying judge Joseph Farnan found that the ‘373 patent for Concerta (methylphenidate hydrochloride extended-release tablets), by ALZA Corp. and McNeil-PPC, is invalid. The ruling applies to Watson’s versions of Concerta in the 18 mg, 27 mg, 36 mg and 54 mg strengths.

“We are very pleased that the court has ruled in our favor, and we will continue to evaluate the court’s opinion as we contemplate next steps,” Watson president and CEO Paul Bisaro said. “We are currently pursuing final FDA approval of this important product.”

The two branded companies originally sued Andrx Corp. in 2005 over the drug; Watson acquired Andrx the next year.

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