Shares of Salix Pharmaceuticals jumped nearly 7 percent Monday on news that the drug company recorded strong sales in the first quarter this year and talked positively about the remainder of 2004.

Salix (Nasdaq: SLXP) closed at $32.64, just off its 52-week high of $32.95, with the $2.09 spike.

Colazal, its lead drug, posted sales of $19.4 million, up nearly $8 million from one year ago. The colitis drug’s performance helped Salix post a gross margin of more than 76 percent for the quarter. Salix said the number of perscriptions for Colazal jumped by 30 percent in the quarter.

Even though Salix still reported a loss of $2.4 million, the company said it expects to be profitable this year. Salix also has $62.6 million in cash and cash equivalents on hand. Salix forecast $75 million in sales for Colazal this year, up from the original forecast of $73 million.

Salix expects to add the drug Rifaximin to its product line in the second half of the year.

“Based upon guidance for net COLAZAL sales for 2004 and the fact that the majority of expenses related to the launch of Rifaximin are being taken during the first half of 2004, we continue to expect to become profitable in the second half of 2004 excluding any revenue effects of Rifaximin,” said Adam Derbyshire, senior vice president and chief financial officer, in a statement. We further continue to believe that we will be profitable for the year ending December 31, 2004 if Rifaximin is approved and launched in 2004 as expected.”

Salix: www.salix.com