Swiss health insurers have scrapped a deal with pharmacists in a row over the rising costs of drugs.
They want pharmacists to sell more generic drugs in a bid to reduce Switzerland’s spiralling health costs.
The cost of drugs covered by basic health insurance has continued to rise despite measures agreed by the two parties two years ago.
Last year the bill rose 11 per cent to SFr2.5 billion ($1.84 billion), according to Santésuisse, the health insurers’ association.
The agreement was designed to increase the role of cheaper generic drugs by giving pharmacists the right to offer them in place of more expensive brand products.
Santésuisse agreed that the cost of drugs covered by basic insurance would have been even higher without the measures that have been implemented but said more needed to be done.
The association criticised the cumbersome administration involved in reimbursement and proposed replacing the current double-tariff system with a single duty.
Above all, it said, pharmacists needed to prescribe more cheaper, generic drugs.
Santésuisse added that it would be prepared to prolong the existing agreement until July 2004 to allow time for a new deal with the pharmacists to be drawn up.
Condemning the move as unreasonable, the Pharmacists Association said that the introduction of the new system had already realised savings of SFr51 million in 2002.
They added that better advice to patients had taken priority over the sale of medicines and that the salaries of pharmacists were no longer tied to the cost of drugs.
They said another SFr56 million had been saved by the 2.7 per cent reduction agreed on specific drugs - although this remains a bone of contention as Santésuisse would like to see a four per cent cut.
“By cancelling the deal, Santésuisse is questioning the concessions we have already guaranteed,” said Dominique Jordan, president of the Pharmacists Association.
Jordan refused to say whether his association would resume negotiations.
“It is very difficult to work with a partner you can’t trust,” he said.
swissinfo with agencies
Health care costs in Switzerland are among the most expensive in the world.
They account for 10.4 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
That puts Switzerland in second place behind the United States with 12.9 per cent of GDP