Despite spiralling health care costs, the Swiss rejected a proposal to lower the cost of medication on Sunday. Nearly 70 per cent of the population turned down the move.
The government had recommended rejection of the initiative, put forward by the Denner retail chain. While approving the initiative's goal of cheaper medicines, the government said it went too far.
The initiative proposed that all medicines sold in the neighbouring countries of Germany, Italy, France and Austria should automatically be available for sale in Switzerland. In practical terms, this would have led to the unregulated sale in Switzerland of all medicaments recognised in European Union countries.
Supporters said the measure would have resulted in lower prices.
The initiative also hoped to promote the use of cheaper, generic medicines, instead of the branded, original ones.
Medicaments account for about 10 per cent of medical costs or SFr4.5 billion. Supporters of the initiative said these costs could have been reduced by about five per cent which would have helped lower the costs of medical insurance.
Opponents said the measure would not automatically have meant lower prices. They also warned that Switzerland would be inundated with tens of thousands of medicaments which had not been regulated or approved by the federal health authority.
They said the quality of treatment could also have suffered with doctors recommending less expensive medicines rather than ones they know best. They claimed patients would opt for cheaper and perhaps, less suitable, medicines.