Drug price study sparks controversy

Switzerland produces more expensive drugs than other European countries Keystone

Pharmaceutical firms say the Swiss pay roughly the same for their drugs as their European neighbours, once purchasing power is factored in.

This content was published on October 15, 2003 - 13:13

The controversial findings have been challenged as misleading by patients groups and the federal price watchdog.

According to a study commissioned by the Swiss pharmaceutical industry, high production costs mean that drugs in Switzerland are among the most expensive in the world - second only to the United States.

But when purchasing power was taken into consideration, Switzerland, together with Denmark and the Netherlands, actually had the lowest price indices for drugs.

“We are sceptical about this study and it is essential to have a closer look at who actually commissioned it,” Margrit Kessler, president of the Swiss Patients' Organisation (SPO), told swissinfo.

“It always depends on how a study is put together, as they can be tailored to get the desired result.”

Purchasing power

The study found that the Swiss paid about the same for drugs as the Danes and Dutch, but more than consumers in Sweden and France.

But Kessler believes the figures are distorted and that the price comparison does not provide the right picture.

“Our experience with drugs has shown that prices in Switzerland are actually pretty high,” she said.

The price controller, Werner Marti, shared Kessler’s view, saying that prices of international products could not be compared in terms of purchasing power.

“It is well-known that prices for drugs are generally higher in Switzerland than abroad and everybody who goes abroad can see that,” he said.

“The only true statement in the study is the fact that production prices are still too high in Switzerland.”

The study, which compared Switzerland with the Netherlands, Britain, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Austria, France, Italy, Canada and the United States, compared the prices of the top 100 branded products in Switzerland.

The report showed that even though production costs were lowest in Austria, Austrian consumers paid the highest prices when buying their drugs at a pharmacy.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Drugs worth SFr1.96 billion were sold in Switzerland in the first half of 2003.
Pharmaceuticals account for 12% of total Swiss health care costs.
When purchasing power is taken into consideration, Switzerland, together with Denmark and the Netherlands, has the lowest prices for drugs.
The 100 products represent a market share of 47% by value and 20% by volume in Switzerland.

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