Drugs: Price differences to other countries are increasing

The price differences between medicines bought in Switzerland and abroad are increasing. The differences in generics, which are twice as expensive on average in Switzerland, are particularly striking.

This is shown by the thirteenth price comparison with other countries, which was carried out jointly by santésuisse and Interpharma and presented at a press conference in Bern on Tuesday. Specifically, the current factory prices of medicines are compared with those of other European countries.

The price gap has widened compared to the previous year, particularly due to exchange rate developments, according to the Association of Swiss Pharmaceutical Companies (Interpharma) and one of the two umbrella insurance companies (santéssuisse).

Palm tree in the credits

For patent-protected medicines, the price level in other European countries is on average 8.8% lower than in Switzerland. The 250 patented original preparations that appear in the list of specialties in Switzerland and have the highest sales were taken into account.

The increase in the difference compared to the previous year (6.9%) is mainly due to the exchange rate development.

Off-patent originator products cost 15.4% less elsewhere in Europe. The palm goes to the generics, which are invoiced an average of 48.4% cheaper in the comparison countries, i.e. twice as expensive. Compared to the previous year (43.5%), the price difference in this area has increased further.

Biosimilars elsewhere 33.5% cheaper

New this year: The price comparison also included biosimilars, i.e. generics of biological medicines, which are often very expensive. As a result, these are on average 33.5% cheaper in the comparison countries than in Switzerland. It should be noted that biosimilars are becoming more and more important to our European neighbors.

In Switzerland, the prices of generics and biosimilars are set by the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) based on a fixed price difference rule compared to the original product.

Influence on the amount of premiums

Christoph Kilchenmann, deputy director of santésuisse, says: “Unfortunately, premium payers pay far too much for medicines. This has a direct effect on the amount of the premiums. That is around 300 million francs more than in the comparison countries for patent-protected medicines and 350 million francs for generics and biosimilars.’

‘Unfortunately,’ he adds, ‘the Parliament recently missed an opportunity to change this situation. A new attempt must now be made to bring the inflated prices back to European levels”.

Innovative medicines

René Buholzer, Director of Interpharma, assures him that “drugs are not the drivers of high costs in the healthcare system and have only accounted for 12% of the total cost volume for years”.

“In addition, thanks to the regular price reviews required by law, the pharmaceutical industry is constantly contributing to the savings of over 1.2 billion francs that have been achieved so far,” he continues. Another factor that is costing patients more is the huge delay in bringing innovative medicines to specialty lists.’

Here it is important for him to act urgently. “That’s why we offer a fee for access to innovations based on a preliminary price. In this way, people (…) can benefit from pharmaceutical innovations because the manufacturer reimburses the difference between the preliminary price and the final price of the new drug.’

Prices from Germany, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Great Britain, the Netherlands and Sweden were compared. The exercise was conducted in April 2022 for patent-protected products, February 2022 for original public domain products, generics and biosimilars.


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