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Road rage

Business | Today's typical RV owner is 49 years old with an annual household income of $56,000

Issue: "Bush: Hail to the chief," Jan. 29, 2005

Venture to guess what the most sought-after search term was on eBay last year? It wasn't iPod, flat-screen televisions, or used bubble gum. It was RV.

And the RV, or recreational vehicle, isn't just a hot item among online bargain hunters. Despite increasing gasoline prices across much of the country last year, consumers purchased RVs at a record pace. In the third quarter alone, the industry reported its highest sales in 26 years, shipping 93,300 units.

While the traditional view of an RV owner may be someone beyond retirement age, reality is much different. Today's typical RV owner is 49 years old with an annual household income of $56,000, according to a University of Michigan study.

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In fact, the Michigan study found that the number of RVs owned by those 35 to 54 grew faster than in all other age groups. Nearly 9 percent of those in this age bracket own RVs, and as these baby boomers continue to approach retirement, RV sales are likely to grow even higher. Already there are an estimated 7.2 million RVs in use with the typical driver out on the road 28 to 35 days per year.

Discount drugs

Millions of uninsured Americans could save money on prescriptions under a discount program unveiled last week by 10 major drug makers.

The Together Rx Access Card program allows those who meet income and age requirements to save 25 percent to 40 percent on more than 275 brand-name prescription drugs and a host of generic drugs.

The program is the latest in a trend by drug manufacturers to offer their own discount cards to those without healthcare coverage who struggle to pay skyrocketing drug prices.

"It's free to get, it's free to use, and the savings are real," said Roba Whitely, executive director of Together Rx Access.

To qualify for the card, applicants must be under 65, not eligible for Medicare, and have no other private or public drug coverage. They also must have incomes no higher than $30,000 for a single person, $40,000 for couples, and $60,000 for a family of four.

Companies participating in the program are Abbott; AstraZeneca; Bristol-Myers Squibb; GlaxoSmith Kline; Janssen Pharmaceutica and Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical; Novartis; Pfizer; sanofi-aventis; Takeda Pharmaceuticals; and TAP Pharmaceutical.

Those who qualify for the new program can enroll by visiting the website www.togetherrxaccess.com or by calling (800) 444-4106.

Balance Sheet

· Former McDonald's CEO Charlie Bell died last week of colon cancer. Mr. Bell, 44, was diagnosed with cancer last May, only a month after ascending to the top job. He left the fast-food giant in November.

· Bristol-Myers Squibb is looking for buyers for its consumer over-the-counter drug line that includes pain relievers Excedrin and Bufferin. The line could fetch $1 billion for the pharmaceutical giant that is restructuring in the face of losing patents on key drugs.

· Eastman Kodak will pay $817 million to buy out Sun Chemical's share of Kodak Polychrome Graphics, a world leader in digital printing products. Nearly two-thirds of Kodak's $1.7 billion in revenues last year were generated by digital products and services.

· Business may soon be booming for suppliers to the world's two largest silicon chip makers. Intel plans to spend more than $10 billion on capital improvements and research and development this year, while Samsung Electronics reported record profits in 2004.

· Former Nike CEO Phil Knight is looking to sell nearly 5.7 million shares of the company's stock, worth an estimated $500 million. That represents just 8 percent of Mr. Knight's total stock.

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