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Feb 5 (Reuters) - Walgreen Co, the largest U.S. drugstore chain, reported an unexpectedly strong 3.7 percent rise in same-store sales in January, as a more severe flu season boosted drug sales.
Shares of the company, which has 8,000 drugstores in the United States, rose 2 percent to $40.87 in pre-market trade on Tuesday.
Analysts on average expected the company's January same-store sales to increase 1.5 percent, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Walgreens usually gets a bit of a sales lift in January as the flu season brings shoppers in for flu shots and medications.
Walgreen said pharmacies and clinics administered 6.9 million flu shots since the beginning of the season, a 25 percent increase from a year earlier.
Total sales in January rose 6.3 percent to $6.15 billion. Pharmacy sales contributed 65 percent to total sales.
Same-store pharmacy sales rose 6.2 percent, above the 2.4 percent increase that analysts were expecting.
The company said the percentage of Express Scripts Holding Co customers filling prescriptions at its pharmacies continued to increase in January.
Walgreen lost millions of customers last year following a contract dispute with the pharmacy benefits manager.