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Price regulator calls for cheaper medicines

Drugs such as the pill are up to 33 per cent cheaper in Germany than in Switzerland

(Keystone Archive)

Medicines in Switzerland may be coming down in price, but they are still too expensive by international standards, according to a new report. The Swiss price ombudsman, Werner Marti, said new pricing mechanisms were being introduced too slowly.

Presenting his annual report for 2000 on Friday, Marti said that a study comparing 1,700 identical medical products in Switzerland and Germany had found that Swiss prices were on average 19 per cent higher than those in Germany, while drugs not covered by mandatory health insurance were up to 33 per cent more expensive.

Marti said if licences were granted, thousands of these "unlisted" drugs could be imported, knocking a huge chunk off the price for consumers.

The ombudsman made it clear he was impatient with the slowness with which the medical pricing reform, TarMed, was being introduced. "TarMed is generally considered to be a good thing, but its application is constantly being postponed," Marti said.

The Swiss pharmaceutical industry was quick to dismiss Marti's criticisms. In a statement, Interpharma said that when value added tax was taken into account drug prices in Germany and Switzerland were much the same. It pointed out that VAT on medicines was just 2.4 per cent in Switzerland, compared to 16 per cent in Germany.

Marti said his plan for 2001 was to continue examining prices in the health sector, but with the focus on hospital charges and dentists' rates.

swissinfo with agencies


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