While once considered the land of milk and honey within Europe in terms of market access and reimbursement for innovative pharmaceuticals, Switzerland is increasingly tightening its belt on this front in line with its European neighbours. Indeed, this year two cost containment packages are under discussion in the Swiss parliament which stand to reshape the access situation in Switzerland. Here, René P Buholzer, CEO of Interpharma, outlines the industry’s key concerns.
“Costs have always been an issue and they are rising all over the world, including in Switzerland. As a wealthy country, we see the correlation between more wealth and more health spending. Obviously, we are committed to our high-quality healthcare system, but we are also very clear that this needs to be sustainably financed. Additionally, rapid and broad access to innovation must be available to patients.
“The Swiss pharma industry contributes significantly to cost containment, more than any other actor in our country’s healthcare system. Switzerland’s Health Minister has stated several times that the pharma industry saves the system more than CHF one billion a year through the regular price reviews; something particularly impressive considering that pharma represents only 12 percent of total healthcare costs.
“We support looking not only at costs but also at innovation. The issue lies on the access side. In 2020, only 11 percent of new innovative products were reimbursed within the legal 60-day period following Swissmedic approval. This is unacceptable for Interpharma and for patients.
The Swiss pharma industry contributes significantly to cost containment, more than any other actor in our country’s healthcare system
René P Buholzer, Interpharma
“The new cost containment packages are partly in the parliament, meaning that things are getting a little more complicated as the packages are being split into two.
“Package One does not properly differentiate between generics and biosimilars. Biosimilars are very different to generics and we therefore believe that they should require a separate Swissmedic approval and different pricing rules. Biosimilars will come into the market more and more as patents expire, but this cannot come at the expense of safety. We accept that biosimilars reduce the cost from originals, but we are looking for a level playing field.
“Package Two is more about moving from the idea of a budget to a target volume and lowest cost principle. We strongly oppose both ideas and want to ensure that broad access to innovation is secured. New payment and reimbursement models may be required to achieve this.
“Furthermore, there also are ideas around introducing parallel imports to Switzerland, which have not really been seen before, other than for non-patent protected products. We strongly oppose this measure as it would allow Swissmedic to be circumvented and unapproved drugs to be brought into the country, raising questions of pharmacovigilance, safety and control. We struggle to make this point in the Parliament because many MPs see parallel imports as a significant cost reduction vehicle. In fact, parallel imports bring down prices slightly, but the biggest profit is with the parallel importers themselves, not the patients. We observe a narrow focus on cost at the expense of this measure’s broader implications.”