The most recent measures implemented for the pharmaceutical sector by the Swiss Federal Council and the Federal Department of Home Affairs effective from 1 May 2012 mean further losses for the pharmaceutical companies in Switzerland. Given global advances in sales and the growth rates for the life sciences sector, at first glance this hardly seems significant, but if we look at the importance of local pharmaceutical, biotech and medtech companies for the Swiss economy, these latest efforts to relieve the burden on the mandatory social health insurance scheme should be seen in a critical light.
Additionally to the comparison of its price in other countries the price-setting process of a pharmaceutical, when initially admitted on the reimbursement list (SL), will continue to include a comparison with state-of-the-art pharmaceutical treatment. This Swiss specific therapeutic value assessment will not be carried out anymore in the subsequent three-yearly re-assessments (see new Art. 65d par. 1bis Health Insurance Ordinance).
With this decision, Switzerland is delegating the structuring of its pharmaceutical prices even more strongly to foreign countries than today. This increasing "implantation" of decisions from other jurisdictions is weakening Switzerland's autonomy, specifically in an area that falls outside the sphere of current discussions on the (autonomous) implementation of European provisions, as in this instance Switzerland is not adopting EU law but is following decisions by individual states.
The future practice of the Federal Office of Public Health (BAG) will show whether prices will still be determined with great care and autonomy, when drugs are first admitted to the reimbursment list, or whether even at this stage, the procedure will be restricted to "copying" prices that already apply in other countries.
The latter would mean that Switzerland factually will not have a legal or economic vote on the market prices of one of its most important export products, not only during their life...