Drug prices fall in Switzerland but generics remain expensive

Generics are twice as expensive Switzerland than other major European markets. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally

Switzerland is narrowing the gap with other European countries when it comes to the cost of medicines. But generics are still double the price and harder to find in the Alpine nation.

This content was published on August 13, 2020 - 12:20

The 11th annual analysisExternal link by the industry association Interpharma and the umbrella group of health insurers santésuisse found that patent-protected drugs were on average 4.5% cheaper in the nine reference countries than in Switzerland. This is an improvement from the price difference of 7% last year. Original products that have expired are 10% less abroad.

The price gap remains the largest for generics. In Switzerland, generics are 42% more expensive – a slight decrease from the previous year (48%). They are also less common. According to data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the share of generics in Switzerland is 27%, compared to 83% in Germany.

The price reductions have helped save CHF1 billion ($1.09 billion) since 2012 according to Interpharma. Medicines account for around 12% of total healthcare costs in Switzerland.

"Insurance premium payers are still spending around CHF200 million more than in the comparison countries, including for patented medicines. The savings could be even greater for generics,” said Verena Nold, director of santésuisse.

The analysis attributes the lower prices to regular price reviews by Swiss public health authorities as well as evolution in exchange rates.

Interpharma also points out that it is taking longer for new, innovative products to be included on the list for health insurance reimbursement. Last year, only 24% of the products that applied for reimbursement were added to the drug specialties listExternal link within 60 days. The number of applications that were not included for reimbursement reached a new high in 2019 with 136 products. 

The nine European countries included in the comparison are Germany, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Great Britain, the Netherlands and Sweden.

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