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Drugs in Switzerland more expensive than ever compared to Europe

Summary:
A recent study by Interpharma and Santésuisse shows how rapidly drug prices have risen in Switzerland over the 10 years to 2020. © Artemiy Sobov | Dreamstime.comBetween 2010 and 2020, medicine prices have risen by nearly 37% in Switzerland. In addition, the cost of basic health insurance has risen at 3 times the rate of GDP over the same period. There are three main reasons for high Swiss drug prices according to the report: too many generic drugs, excessive margins and high factory prices. Only 23% of medicines sold in Switzerland are generic. The same percentages in the UK (85%), Germany (82%) and the Netherlands (76%) are all far higher. The OECD average is 52%. Generics are far cheaper than their branded equivalents. For example, branded Paracetamol in Switzerland

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A recent study by Interpharma and Santésuisse shows how rapidly drug prices have risen in Switzerland over the 10 years to 2020.

© Artemiy Sobov | Dreamstime.com

Between 2010 and 2020, medicine prices have risen by nearly 37% in Switzerland. In addition, the cost of basic health insurance has risen at 3 times the rate of GDP over the same period.

There are three main reasons for high Swiss drug prices according to the report: too many generic drugs, excessive margins and high factory prices.

Only 23% of medicines sold in Switzerland are generic. The same percentages in the UK (85%), Germany (82%) and the Netherlands (76%) are all far higher. The OECD average is 52%.

Generics are far cheaper than their branded equivalents. For example, branded Paracetamol in Switzerland (Dafalgan) is 47% more expensive than an unbranded equivalent. Part of the problem is that retailers benefit from pushing branded products. In an example in the report, a pharmacy makes CHF 13.59 on a box of Dafalgan but only CHF 9.09 on an equivalent box of unbranded Paracetamol.

If customers developed a habit of always requesting generics in prescriptions and at pharmacies, it could add up to a significant collective saving.

In addition to a lack of generics, Switzerland suffers from inflated factory prices. For example, a packet of the drug Atorvastatin, a statin taken to lower levels of blood lipids, costs 8 times more in Switzerland than it does in Belgium.

The report recommends changes that could cut healthcare costs in Switzerland by CHF 780 million a year. This would cut health insurance premiums by 2.3%, a saving of roughly CHF 85 per person per year.

To achieve these savings would require reduced retail prices through a European price reference system that calculated a reference price based on other European nations (-350 million), reduced retail margins (-330 million) and annual reviews of which drugs are to be covered by compulsory health insurance (-100 million).

The report also recommends granting health insurance companies greater opportunity to challenge prices.

More on this:
Santésuisse report (in French) – Take a 5 minute French test now

Drugs in Switzerland more expensive than ever compared to Europe

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