High Drug Prices Open Switzerland Up To Regional Procurement Ideas

Switzerland, considered to be one of the richest countries in the world and home to significant medical research and development, has begun feeling the pressure of high drug prices for its citizens. This has led it to begin talking with other countries exploring joint procurement initiatives aimed at lowering prices for medical products, the Swiss global health ambassador told Health Policy Watch in an interview.

According to Amb. Nora Kronig Romero, speaking alongside last week’s World Health Organization Executive Board meeting in Geneva, a report within the WHO on cancer helped make the point about drug pricing. (more on the report is here, Health Policy Watch, 27 November 2018)

“I think that the growth of the prices in certain drugs is a challenge, it is also a challenge for Switzerland, and some of the conclusions of the cancer report of WHO were also important for us,” Kronig Romero told Health Policy Watch. “We looked at them thoroughly and analysed the options on the table.”

“What was crystallized through the cancer report were options of measures that member states could take to reduce prices. And that brings me to the situation that we now face nationally. We do face a big challenge on making sure that we sustainably finance our health care system,” she said. “I think that sustainability is the important part of the discussion. We have health care system costs that are growing every year. It has consequences for the population; premiums are going up every year, and we have done a lot of political work on the national level to see how to get the growth in costs under control without giving up on the quality of the system and while assuring access for everybody. In order to keep the prices affordable, we negotiate intensively with the industry.”

Kronig Romero called the WHO cancer report “well done,” but said that it “also underlines the aspects where there is no data, not enough data.” But as the “solid” report was aligned to aspects important to Switzerland, the steps for the alpine country now are a matter of “getting inspired by the report, getting a better understanding of the way it works nationally, and the possibility of increasing international cooperation on those issues.”

Open to Joint Procurement Ideas

“We do think it would be interesting to put more effort on international cooperation, and would be ready to push for increased international cooperation,” she said. “We would be open to joint procurement ideas, and joint negotiation ideas.”

On transparency of prices, a related issue, Kronig Romero said Switzerland is “completely transparent. … we don’t negotiate secret deals, we really publish everything that we do.”

“Still,” she added, “we see that for the very new, high-end, innovative drugs, we have to explore different sustainable financing options.”

Switzerland has “pushed for many years this idea of transparency of prices on the international level, and cooperation between member states,” she said. “This doesn’t mean that everything is completely public, but we do think it would be important to move more in that direction. We are very committed to international collaborations and would like to advance them further.”

A “good example of one way to improve international cooperation” is the Beneluxa Initiative involving joint procurement efforts of Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Austria.

“Switzerland has been in contact with those initiatives,” she said. “I think we could take it a step forward and be very interested to commit to such initiatives.”

Read the full interview Amb. Kronig Romero on Health Policy Watch here.


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