Switzerland remains high price island for drugs

Generic drugs cost 45% more in Switzerland than in comparable foreign countries © Keystone / Gaetan Bally

The price of medical drugs in Switzerland remains higher than in other major European markets, especially for generic drugs, which are almost twice as expensive. Patented drugs also cost more.

This content was published on May 27, 2021 - 11:43

The reason for the increased price difference for patent-protected medicines is the exchange rate, said Santésuisse and Interpharma, umbrella organisations for Swiss insurers and pharmaceutical research companies, on Thursday.

At an exchange rate of CHF1.11 per euro, the 250 top-selling patented drugs were 6.9% more expensive in Switzerland in spring 2021 than in comparable foreign countries. A year ago the same medicines were only 4.5% more expensive.

The price difference for 250 patent-expired original drugs also increased, to 11.5% from 10% in 2020. However, the price difference remains by far the greatest for generics. On average, these cost 45% more in Switzerland, compared with 42% more in the previous year.

“Unfortunately the premium payers felt the increased price differences […] very directly: in Switzerland we pay over CHF200 million ($222 million) more for patent-protected medicines than in the comparable countries,” said Verena Nold, director of Santésuisse, in a statementExternal link.

Reference price system

Nold is therefore once again calling for the reference price system, which establishes a common reimbursement level or reference price for a group of interchangeable medicines. This could save the local premium payers several hundred million francs a year, she said.

“Parliament still has time this year to show its colours and stand up for the premium payers,” she said.

The price comparison was carried out for the 12th time. It compared the ex-factory prices in Switzerland with those in Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Finland, France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Austria and Sweden for patented and off-patent medicines and generics.

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