Drug store chains look to cash in on baby boomers

A CVS pharmacy going up near McHenry Village in Modesto is a sign of things to come: Drugstores are proliferating in the Northern San Joaquin Valley and beyond to serve an aging population.

As CVS builds stores and prepares to rebrand the Longs Drugs outlets it bought last year, Walgreens and Rite Aid are adding and rebuilding stores. And supermarkets and big-box retailers such as Wal-Mart increasingly are getting into the pharmacy business.

They all are preparing to meet the needs of about 78 million aging baby boomers nationwide.

Baby boomers are "entering their peak prescription-use years," and that's driving chains to add stores, said Walgreen Co. spokesman Robert Elfinger.

Chain drugstores make 65 percent to 70 percent of their revenue from prescription drugs, according to companies' financial reports. The average U.S. resident fills 10 prescriptions a year, according to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.

That number rises as people age.

When they have serious illnesses that require expensive medications, each customer can bring thousands of dollars into a pharmacy between out-of-pocket and insurance payments, said Bill Rice, a marketing professor at California State University, Fresno.

"It's a gold mine," Rice said.

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