RALEIGH … Salix Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq:SLXP) reported a $5.5 million loss, or 26 cents a share, on $11.5 million in revenue during the first quarter, ended March 31. Those results compare with a loss of $4.7 million, or 26 cents a share, on $6.2 million in revenue during the first three months of 2002.

Revenue came from sales of Colazal (balsalazide disodium), the company’s first-line therapy for the treatment of mildly to moderately active ulcerative colitis.

Salix also is in Phase III clinical trials for Rifaximin, a treatment for Crohn’s disease, and plans to submit an amended New Drug Application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration by November. The company expects to begin Phase III trials for granulated mesalamine, another ulcerative colitis drug, later this year.

“We are pleased with the continued growth of our Colazal business. Prescription data for 2002 reveal that Colazal is the fastest growing drug of its kind in the marketplace,” Chief Financial Officer Adam Derbyshire said in a statement. “We expect to become profitable in the second half of 2004 excluding any revenue effects of Rifaximin. We further believe that we will be profitable for the year ending December 31, 2004, if Rifaximin is approved and launched in 2004 as expected.”

Derbyshire predicted Colazal sales of $50 million to $53 million for all of 2003 and raised projections for next year by about $10 million, to between $70 million and $73 million. He said earnings this year will be about $1.10 a share, although fighting off a hostile takeover bid by Canada-based Axcan may lower that amount.

Salix Pharmaceuticals: www.salix.com