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Pills, ointments, herbs Cabinet tackles reform of medication

In Switzerland not only pharmacies but also doctors can sell medication

In Switzerland not only pharmacies but also doctors can sell medication


The government wants to ease the sale of medication by pharmacies and ban certain forms of discounts by pharmaceutical companies. The proposed measures are part of a two-tier reform to be discussed by parliament.

Interior Minister Alain Berset, whose portfolio includes health matters, said pharmacies could be allowed to sell patients some prescription drugs without formal approval by a doctor.

Under the bill, chemists could sell all kinds of non-prescription medication.

Pharmacists are medical experts who deserve the confidence of patients to hand out medication without a doctor’s prescription as Berset said at a news conference on Wednesday.

It is not clear whether the move would lead to cost savings for the strained Swiss health system.

Critics argue the reform does not include any proposal to restrict the controversial sale of drugs by doctors – a unique Swiss regulation according to the Federal Health Office.

The reform also seeks to liberalise the production in small quantities of complementary medicines. Swiss voters in 2009 approved a legal amendment boosting alternative therapies.


As part of the latest reform the cabinet also seeks to rein in pharmaceutical companies using special discounts, including samples, to increase the sale of medication to retailers and doctors.

The aim is to create more transparency on discounts, bonuses as well as business relations between produces and retailers, according to Berset.

The government in March decided to impose a reduction in prices for some drugs, causing a storm of protest form pharmaceutical companies.

Berset said the first stage of the move – forcing the industry to lower the price of 800 drugs for a value of about SFr240 million ($254 million) – has been a success. He said discussions were planned with the industry on further steps.

The bill presented to the media also includes measures to encourage the pharmaceutical industry to develop more medicinal products for paediatric use. Berset highlighted the importance of drugs specifically targeted for sick children.

The first part of the reform, launched in 2010, was aimed at the use of medication by hospitals.


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