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High Swiss Drug Prices – Campaign Presents a Solution to Swiss government

This week, the Swiss NGO Public Eye, launched a campaign for more affordable medicine in Switzerland under the slogan: protect patients, not patents.


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The NGO says high prices, of cancer drugs in particular, is not only an issue affecting developing nations but wealthy ones too. It says that cancer treatments in Switzerland often cost over CHF 100,000 a year.

Public Eye’s proposed cure is compulsory licensing, an international patent law mechanism that allows lower priced generic drugs to be sold along side patented branded ones. Sometimes successfully used in developing countries, despite pressure from the pharmaceutical industry, Public Eye wants it deployed in Switzerland too.

Thomas Cueni, Director General of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations, tried to defend drug makers in an interview on RTS, Switzerland’s public broadcaster. He describes compulsory licensing as too simplistic. Cueni fails to respond to the question of reducing margins on drugs despite large industry profits and bonuses, such as the CHF 72 million one initially awarded to the head of Novartis in 2013. Instead he point out the medical progress and increase in life expectancy that has occurred over the past 50 years.

According to the newspaper 20 Minutes, Alain Berset, Switzerland’s president, admitted that effort needed to made to improve access to generics.

In addition, there is challenge with generic drug pricing in Switzerland. Prices of generics are set by reference to their branded equivalents. The prices of Swiss generics are higher than across the rest of Europe. Switzerland’s price watchdog estimates annual savings of CHF 400 million if a reference price, set at the cost of the lowest priced generic drug, was introduced and applied to compulsory insurance reimbursements.

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