CVS Caremark Corp. posted a higher fourth-quarter profit on Thursday, driven by growth in its pharmacy services and retail drugstore units.

CVS said it had earned $949.3 million, or 65 cents per share, compared with $811.2 million, or 55 cents per share, a year earlier.

Sales rose 10 percent to $24.14 billion at CVS, which runs more than 6,800 U.S. drugstores and is a major pharmacy benefits manager.

In January, CVS issued a bleak 2009 forecast after it gave lower rates to more than half of its pharmacy benefit clients in order to lock in their contracts. At that time, Chief Executive Tom Ryan said CVS drugstores were doing remarkably well, given the recession's impact on consumer spending, but the company was seeing margin pressure in its pharmacy benefit manager business.

CVS had forecast 2009 net earnings of $2.35 to $2.43 per share and adjusted profit of $2.53 to $2.61 per share, which includes the impact of the Longs acquisition but excludes other items.

(Reporting by Aarthi Sivaraman and Jessica Wohl; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)