Drugstore.com soars in trading debut

The online pharmacy's shares rose 32.25 to 50.25, giving the company a value of $2.13 billion at the end of the day's trading.

BELLEVUE, Washington--Drugstore.com more than doubled in its first day as investors snapped up shares in an online pharmacy backed by some of the best-known names on the Web.

The Bellevue, Washington-based company's shares rose 32.25 to 50.25. About 8.8 million shares traded on the Nasdaq and the company ended the day valued at $2.13 billion.

Drugstore.com, which said it has about 168,000 customers, lost $30.4 million in the first six months of the year on sales of $4.2 million. The company's pharmacists can advise customers on drugs and fill prescriptions. Customers also can have products such as toothpaste, shampoo, and homeopathic remedies delivered to their houses.

The 15-month-old company sold 5 million shares, equal to a 12-percent stake, at $18 each. The sale was managed by Morgan Stanley Dean Witter.

Overall, health-care related initial stock offerings have done well this year. Healtheon, which links doctors, insurers, and patients through the Internet, remains one of this year's best-performing IPOs. It almost quadrupled in its first day of trading, in February. Drkoop.com, an Internet site founded by former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, more than doubled in its first day, in June.

Peter Neupert, Drugstore.com's chief executive, worked at Microsoft for more than a decade, including as vice president of news and publishing for interactive media.

Jeff Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon.com, is a member of Drugstore.com's board. So are John Doerr and Brook Byers, both partners with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm.

Melinda French Gates, a former Microsoft executive and the wife of Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, is expected to be appointed to the board after the sale.

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