PHARMACY

Fred’s experiences vast jump in net income

BY Michael Johnsen

MEMPHIS, Tenn. Fred’s on Thursday reported net income of $16.6 million for the year ended Jan. 31, up 55.1% from the year-ago period.

Fred’s total sales for fiscal 2008 totaled $1.8 billion, representing an increase of 1%. Excluding stores closed during the year, total sales from ongoing stores increased 4% in 2008. Comparable-store sales for 2008 increased 1.8% versus 0.3% for 2007, the discounter reported.

“With unprecedented upheaval in the financial markets during the fourth quarter [of] 2008 and evaporating consumer confidence, customers rapidly became much more cautious in their spending and continued to emphasize promotional and basic products throughout the holiday season,” stated Michael Hayes, chairman of Fred’s.

“Fred’s clearly benefited in significant ways from these early responses to the year’s economic challenges, with improved comparable store sales for the year, a stronger balance sheet highlighted by reduced debt and higher inventory turnover, and improved cash flow,” Hayes said. “More important, we now begin 2009 with vastly improved capital and operational structures strengthened by Fred’s new leadership as Bruce Efird takes the reins as CEO. Consequently, with various sales and profit-driving initiatives in place, the Fred’s team is well positioned to capitalize on the opportunities created for discount retailers by current economic pressures and continue to expand our market share.”

During the fourth quarter, Fred’s opened six new pharmacies. In 2008, the company has opened 21 stores, closed 74 stores, opened 11 pharmacies and closed 23 pharmacies.

In the first quarter of 2009, the company expects total sales to decline in the range of 2% to 4%, due to the effect of Fred’s 2008 store closing program. Comparable store sales are expected to increase in the range of 1% to 3% for the quarter, with the continuation of improved customer response to the company’s initiatives to make a more pleasurable shopping trip.

Fred’s operated 663 discount general merchandise stores, including 24 franchised Fred’s stores at year-end.

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Study: Children with autism may benefit from hyperbaric therapy

BY Alaric DeArment

MELBOURNE, Fla. Children with autism may benefit from time spent in a hyperbaric chamber, according to a new study.

The randomized, controlled and double-blind study, published in the journal BMC Pediatrics and titled “Hyperbaric treatment for children with autism,” found that children who were placed in an OxyHealth portable hyperbaric chamber and breathed 24% oxygen at a pressure 1.3 times that of the atmosphere for 40 hourly sessions had significant improvements in overall functioning, social interaction and other areas, compared with children who received slightly pressurized room air.

“In our study, we observed significant improvements in several core autistic behaviors with the use of hyperbaric therapy at [1.3 atmospheres] compared to children receiving near-placebo treatment,” physician and lead study author Daniel Rossignol said in a statement. “These findings confirm what we are seeing in clinical practice – that many children with autism may benefit with the use of this treatment.”

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Perrigo receives FDA approval for topical acne treatment

BY Alaric DeArment

ALLEGAN, Mich. The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new drug from Perrigo Co., the generic and OTC drug maker announced Tuesday.

The FDA approved Perrigo’s sulfacetamide sodium topical suspension in the 10% strength. The lotion is a generic version of Sanofi-Aventis’ Klaron and is used to treat acne.

Klaron had sales of $15 million for the 12-month period ending in January, according to Wolters Kluwer Health data.

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