Swiss drug prices still soar above European levels

Pricey products: medicines and drugs in Switzerland. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally

Compared with nine other European countries, Switzerland remains a high-price island for medicines, according to an annual survey by health insurer body santésuisse and pharma research group Interpharma.

This content was published on May 31, 2022 - 12:16

The price difference was again most marked for generic drugs – i.e. mass-produced copies of established products, the groups said on Tuesday. In February 2022, generics were almost twice as cheap (48.4%) in the nine other European nations studied than in Switzerland, an increase on last year’s 43.5%. The 250 top-selling patented drugs were meanwhile 8.8% cheaper elsewhere; the top patent-expired drugs were 15.4% cheaper.

While the rising price gap last year was particularly due to fluctuations in the euro-franc exchange rate, the general situation still calls for political action, said Christoph Kilchenmann of santésuisse.

“[Insurance] premium payers unfortunately spend much too much on medicines, which has a direct repercussion on rising premiums,” he said. He claimed Swiss consumers spend up to CHF750 million too much on drugs, and called on parliament to rein in prices.

Hot political potato

Health costs are an ongoing issue in Switzerland, and the national price watchdog has also previously said that politicians should approve a reference system to curb the high price of medicines.

As for rising insurance premiums, parliament is due to discuss two separate people’s initiatives in the coming weeks, both of which aim to stabilise costs by linking premium levels with salary levels. Neither proposal will come before Swiss voters this year.

Interpharma director René Buholzer meanwhile claimed on Tuesday that drug prices, which make up “only 12% of overall [health] costs”, were not the big driver of pricey healthcare. For him, the best solution would be to facilitate a faster approval of “innovative medicines” into the official list of products.

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