The company's motto is "You're Sick. We're Quick."

In the latest marriage of health care and retail, shoppers can get a quick checkup for minor ailments while picking up a Pepsi 12-pack or filling a prescription at four CVS stores, in Bethesda, Rockville, Bowie and Silver Spring.

The in-store clinics, staffed by nurse practitioners, are owned by MinuteClinic Inc., a Minnesota company that already runs 40 such facilities in four other metropolitan areas, including Baltimore.

The idea is to make health care visits more convenient, said Michael C. Howe, a former Arby's chief executive who heads MinuteClinic.

In the Washington area, MinuteClinic is initially targeting "mothers with kids and careers who are very busy and are looking for a solution to those minor ailments in their lives," Howe said.

Nurse practitioners are trained to diagnose, treat and write prescriptions for common family illnesses such as strep throat and bronchial infections. Patients with more serious illnesses are referred to their physicians or to the nearest hospital.

The company has agreements with Medicare, Aetna Inc., CareFirst Inc. and several other insurers, so many visits can be settled with a co-payment.

For cash customers, the cost of no-appointment-necessary visits can range from $28 for pregnancy testing to $78 for a flu consultation. Vaccinations such as flu shots ($30), tetanus/diphtheria ($38) and pneumonia ($30) also are available.

CVS, Safeway and other retailers have long offered flu shots. And last week, America Online Inc. co-founder Steve Case and a team of other former chief executives announced a venture to finance clinics at retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

The MinuteClinic centers that opened yesterday are at the CVS stores on Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda, White Hall Center in Bowie, Seven Locks Road in Rockville and Plaza del Mercado in Silver Spring. Clinic hours at those stores are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

"I would love to see another 20 to 25 locations in the Washington area," Howe said.

A MinuteClinic drop-in station inside a CVS drugstore in Eagan, Minn. Four are open locally.