'The Swiss government must make lifesaving drugs affordable'

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'The Swiss government must make lifesaving drugs affordable'
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Swiss health NGO Public Eye has launched a campaign calling for Swiss authorities to combat the exploding cost of lifesaving medications by taking on the pharma companies.


The lack of access to medicines is no longer simply an issue for poorer countries but is now also a problem including for rich nations like Switzerland, the organisation stated in its Protect patients, not patents report.

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In the report published on Tuesday, Public Eye blamed the “current pharmaceutical pricing model, reliant on patent-based monopolies” for the problem of ballooning of medication prices, singling out the high costs of new cancer therapies.

One of the videos released by the Public Eye campaign (in English).

“Thanks to patent monopolies, pharma firms can basically set practically prices as high as they want,” said the organisation, noting “the cost of research and development remains one of the best-kept secrets in this very profitable industry”.

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Public Eye, together with the Swiss Cancer League is now calling for the Swiss government to fight price hikes for medications and to recognise the legitimacy of using so-called compulsory licensing when this is in the public interest.

Under compulsory licensing, generic medications can be distributed despite an existing patent.

"By resorting to compulsory licences, the Swiss Federal Council can restore the balance between the interests of an extremely profitable industry and public health needs," the health NGO said.

Public Eye also called on Switzerland to stop bowing to big pharma's “aggressive lobbying” by imposing diplomatic pressure on other countries such as Thailand and Colombia wanting to protect public health through compulsory licensing.

“If we do not stop this trend, only the most privileged will be able to afford these [new cancer] drugs. Millions will die and millions will be left behind,” said the NGO of the current situation.

The organisation now hopes to collect 10,000 signatures with an online petition.

Swiss President Alain Berset on Monday recognised the problem of expensive medications: “We have to find a balance between company research, public research and market conditions, where investment pays off,” he said.

Currently, medicine costs account for 20 percent of all money paid into Switzerland's compulsory health insurance scheme, according to Public Eye.


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