Watchdog calls for medicine prices to be slashed

Generic medicines cost twice as much in Switzerland as in some other European countries, according to the Swiss price watchdog.

Watchdog calls for medicine prices to be slashed

The federal price supervisor is calling for measures to lower drug prices in Switzerland after conducting a comparison of costs across Europe, news agencies reported.

The watchdog compared the prices of 20 active ingredients whose patents have expired in Switzerland and in 15 other European countries.

It discovered huge differences. For example, the cheapest generic drug in the Netherlands costs just 15 percent of the price paid in Switzerland.

In Sweden and the UK the same drug sells for 19 percent and 20 percent respectively of the Swiss price.

The European average price was 41 percent that of the price in Switzerland.

The price supervisor is now calling for the introduction of a reference price to ensure that health insurers all reimburse drugs with the same active ingredient by the same amount.

This would be based on the price of the cheapest generic – non-branded – version of the medicine.

The overseer also urged an annual review of medicine prices in Switzerland.

The Swiss consumer protection organization SKS supported the suggestions.

It said it was not acceptable that there are such huge price differences for the same medicines.

This drove up the cost of basic health insurance premiums, SKS said.

The planned measures could save hundreds of millions of francs with no loss of quality, it said.

Health insurance premiums are set to rise by an average of four percent next year.


For members


Reader question: Can I put my Swiss health insurance on hold if I’m abroad?

Given how expensive health insurance premiums are in Switzerland, you may be tempted to suspend your policy while you are abroad. Is this possible?

Reader question: Can I put my Swiss health insurance on hold if I'm abroad?

Unlike the obligatory car insurance, which you can suspend temporarily by depositing your registration plates at the local motor vehicles office, rules pertaining to health insurance are much stricter.

As the Federal Office of Public Health explains it, “If you leave the country for a certain period to travel or study but do not take up residence abroad, you are still required to have [health] insurance in Switzerland”.

In other words, as long as you are a registered resident of Switzerland, regardless of your nationality or passport, you must keep your compulsory Swiss health insurance and pay your premiums. While you do this, you also remain covered against most medical emergencies while you travel.

However, rules are less stringent for supplemental health plans which can, in some cases, be put on hold, depending on the insurance provider, according to Switzerland’s Moneyland consumer website.

The only exception allowed for suspending the health insurance coverage is during a military or civil protection service which lasts more than 60 consecutive days.

“During these periods, the risks of illness and accident are covered by military insurance. Your health insurance provider will refund your premiums”, according to FOPH.

Under what circumstances can you cancel your Swiss health insurance?

Swiss law says you can cancel your insurance if you are moving abroad, either permanently for for a period exceeding three months.

If you do so, only claims for treatments given while you still lived in Switzerland will be paid by your insurance; any medical bills for treatment incurred after you officially leave will be denied.

These are the procedures for cancelling your compulsory health insurance if you leave the country under conditions mentioned above

To announce your departure abroad, you must send your insurance carrier a letter including your name, customer number or AVS/AHV number.

You must also include a certificate from your place of residence in Switzerland confirming that you have de-registered from your current address, as well as the date of your departure.

Note, however, that if your new destination is another Swiss community / canton, rather than a foreign country, your insurance can only be cancelled from the following calendar year and only if you present proof of having taken up a new policy with another company.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to register your address in Switzerland

You can find out more information about this process here

If you suspend your health insurance for less than six years, you can reactivate it at a later date with the same company when you return to Switzerland.

READ MORE : What you should know about your Swiss health insurance before you go abroad