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fair price? Generic drugs remain twice as expensive in Switzerland

drugs on a shelf

Generic or patent; which drugs do you buy?

(© Keystone / Gaetan Bally)

Drug prices in Switzerland remain higher than in other major European markets, especially when it comes to generic drugs, which are twice as expensive in Switzerland as elsewhere.

According to figures published Tuesday by the Swiss pharma industry association Interpharmaexternal link and the umbrella group for health insurers SantéSuisseexternal link, the difference in the price of patented drugs in Switzerland compared to elsewhere is 7%, down from 9% last year.

This is thanks in part to more favourable exchange rates, as well as regular price controls by the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), according to the groups. The savings due to lower prices are estimated to be some CHF325 million ($323 million).

+ At the end of 2018, federal authorities decided to slash drugs costs

However, it’s a different story for generic drugs, which are twice as expensive in Switzerland than in similar markets. The Swiss also tend to buy less generics, which represent 23% of volume and 18% of sales. In the United Kingdom, as a comparison, generics represent 85% of volume and 38% of sales.

For example, in Switzerland a pack of the patented painkiller Dafalgan costs CHF6.95 more than the generic version Paracetamol. Despite the potential savings, Dafalgan remains more popular: 900,000 packages were sold last year for a total of CHF23.1 million, compared to only 65,000 packs of Paracetamol sold at CHF1.2 million.

Despite the discrepancies, buying generics still represent savings compared to patented versions, SantéSuisse says.

This is the tenth edition of the report, which compares prices for 250 of the best-selling drugs in Switzerland to those in Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Finland, France, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Austria and Sweden.


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