CVS Caremark Corp., the largest U.S. pharmacy store chain, reported on Thursday that its first quarter profit soared 83 percent as sales increased following the acquisition of Caremark RX Inc last year.

CVS said its net income was of $748.5 million, or 51 cents per share, compared with $405.4 million, or 43 cents a share, in the previous year. Excluding some charges related to the deal, earnings rose to 55 cents a share from 46 cents.

Sales rose 62 percent to $21.33 billion compared to $13.2 billion a year ago, meeting analysts' forecasts of 55 cents earnings per share on revenue of $21.36 billion.

Same-store sales grew 3.9 percent, helped by an earlier Easter period in March rather than April. Pharmacy sales rose 3.7 percent and front- end sales went up 4.3 percent.

For the year, CVS expects adjusted earnings per share ranging from $2.44 to $2.50, and growth of 18 to 21 percent according to CVS Chief Financial Officer David Rickard who said that the company expects to save about $700 million in 2008 from the merger, the Associated Press reported.

Shares of CVS rose 0.52 percent to $40.58 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading on Thursday afternoon.

Recently the company started to add medical clinics called MinuteClinics inside stores and has planned to expand their number this year. The company faces competition from rival Walgreen Co., which is the biggest U.S. drugstore by sales and is also seeking to open new pharmacy stores with health clinics inside.

CVS has over 6,300 retail stores in 44 states including 500 health-care centers.