Salix Pharmaceuticals is expanding its efforts to combat colon cancer, expanding a public awareness campaign along with the Colon Cancer Alliance and the Walgreens drugstore chain.

Through a grant, Salix (Nasdaq: SXLP) is providing Walgreens with continuing education assistance for more than 20,000 pharmacists. In the first year of the program in 2007, more than 6,000 pharmacists participated.

“So many people are missing a life-saving opportunity because they aren’t getting screened,” said Timothy Turnham, chief executive officer of the Colon Cancer Alliance. “That’s why we are working with Salix and Walgreens on a national and community level to change this.”

The combined effort of the two companies and the alliance is designed to encourage more Americans to be screened for colorectal cancer. March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

“This program provides consumers with a local, trusted source for information about a topic many of us would honestly rather put off – but it’s one that can save lives,” said Salix Chief Executive Officer Carolyn Logan. “By increasing awareness and educating consumers on how to talk with their health-care providers about screening, this program enables consumers to make more educated decisions concerning their health.”

The awareness campaign, which runs through April, includes printed brochures in English and Spanish, posters, and advertising. The Colon Cancer Alliance also will offer a toll-free helpline.

Colon cancer is one of the most deadly cancers, killing 55,000 people a year, yet fewer than 50 percent of Americans who should take advantage of screening do so, according to several studies. Some 154,000 Americans are diagnosed with the disease every year.

Salix develops and manufacturers gastrointestinal drugs.

CCA’s toll free helpline: 877-422-2030.