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Swiss data protection chief pushes back on drug pricing secrecy

Last year, federal public health authorities said there were special discount deals on about 20 treatments. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally

A proposed change to the new health insurance law that seeks to keep drug prices under lock and key has raised red flags.

This content was published on August 20, 2020 - 17:35
Keystone-SDA/jdp

According to news agency Keystone-SDA, Adrian Lobsiger, the Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Information, has written a letter criticising a confidentiality clause on the price of medicines in the proposed health insurance law.

He argues that the clause contradicts the principle of public access. Lobsiger has already spoken out about his dissatisfaction with the provision and reiterated that it is essential that the public is able to check and monitor the price approval procedure for medicines.

Switzerland has been an advocate of price transparency. Last year, Swiss global health ambassador Nora Kronig told swissinfo.ch that “we are one of the only countries that are fully transparent about prices. There are no secret deals".

Switzerland sets drug prices based on a comparison to nine other countries and negotiations with individual manufacturers. But it is common knowledge that many countries receive special discounts from companies on certain drugs. This means that the basket of prices Switzerland uses for comparison is wrong.

In an effort to make innovative treatments particularly for cancer available more quickly, Switzerland also started to negotiate special rebate deals for medicines with pharmaceutical companies. Last year, public health authorities said there were deals on 20 or so treatments but this could rise with the introduction of gene therapies priced in the six to seven figures.

Although the information about the discount price is available, some NGOs argue that it is difficult to find and calculate.

The law presented by Interior Minister Alain Berset earlier this week aims to create the legal basis for gaining access to innovative, costly medication through special deals or what are called pricing models. It suggests that in some cases the amount of the refund will not be made public in cases where the discount is so high that the company doesn’t wish to make it public.

The proposals are now available for consultation before it will be sent to parliament.

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