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Health insurers call for action on drug prices

Soaring drug costs have led to calls for action to cap prices

(Keystone Archive)

Swiss health insurance companies are calling for urgent measures to cap the cost of drugs. The move comes a day after voters rejected a proposal on lowering the price of medicines, which are among the most expensive in Europe.

In a statement issued on Monday, the association of Swiss health insurers said that last year the price of medicines covered by obligatory insurance had risen by more than 10 per cent. Around one fifth of revenue from premiums is now spent on medicines.

The association said prices could not be allowed to spiral out of control and it urged the setting-up of a round table to discuss the issue. Representatives of government, consumer organisations, health insurers, the pharmaceuticals industry and the price regulator should all take part in discussions, it said.

Other measures mooted by the association included parallel imports of patent-protected drugs, where these are cheaper than domestically produced products.

The idea of allowing the sale in Switzerland of cheaper medicines from Germany, Italy, France and Austria was one of the main planks of the so-called Denner Initiative, which came to the vote on Sunday. Perhaps surprisingly, given spiralling healthcare costs, almost 70 per cent of the population rejected the proposal.

Opponents, including the government, argued that the initiative went too far and would not automatically have resulted in lower prices. They warned that Switzerland would be inundated with tens of thousands of drugs, which had not been subject to regulation or approval by the federal health authority.

They also said the quality of treatment available to patients could suffer, with doctors recommending less expensive treatments rather than the ones they knew best.

swissinfo with agencies


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