Cardinal Health ( CAH) has taken another step on its long road to recovery. The giant drug distributor generated first-quarter revenue of $19.4 billion that, while short of the $19.6 consensus estimate, came in 9% higher than a year ago. The company also grew operating profits by 3% to $372 million and -- excluding the usual slew of "special" items -- posted first-quarter earnings of 75 cents a share that beat Wall Street expectations by 3 cents. For its part, Cardinal said that its latest results "reflect strong customer demand for the company's products and services and solid earnings that were enhanced by ongoing programs to strengthen its operations." The company celebrated the first-quarter performance turned in by most of its divisions. Its giant pharmaceutical distribution business increased revenue by 9% -- and profits by a much stronger 25% -- with help from early launches of generic products, ongoing expense controls and effective inventory management. Going forward, however, the company expects this division's growth to slow down along with the overall market. Meanwhile, Cardinal's clinical technologies division, which sells its popular Pyxis medication dispensers, enjoyed a quarter of explosive growth. There, profits surged 88% on a 10% increase in revenue. But this division, like the distribution business, expects to see profit growth slow in the future. Still, Cardinal does anticipate some improvement from its underperforming pharmaceutical technologies and services division. That unit grew revenue by just 2% and saw operating profits plunge 42% during the latest quarter. The company said it was "disappointed" with that performance and promised far better results ahead. "Specific actions underway are expected to improve (the division's) operating earnings by at least 50% from the first quarter to the second quarter," Cardinal stated. And "for the full year, operating earnings are expected to grow in line with the company's long-term goal for the segment of 12% to 18% due to ongoing benefits of the actions taken and favorable comparisons to the prior year."