Quality-related problems concerning the prescription of medication

The medication costs in Switzerland amounted to about CHF 7.6 billion in 2018. Since 2010, costs have risen by 46 percent, whereby half of this increase was attributable to immunosuppressants and cancer medication. Great savings potential is above all associated with the use of biosimilars. One of the other findings of this year’s Helsana Drug Report is that further efforts are required to ensure that antibiotics are used more appropriately in the outpatient sector.


The latest Helsana Drug Report shows that the medication costs of basic health insurance have reached a new height of CHF 7.6 billion in 2018. Since 2010, the costs for medications have risen by 46 per cent. By contrast, the total costs for the healthcare system have risen considerably less – by 26.7 percent according to the Federal Statistical Office. However, this further increase was not as high as in previous years thanks to the price reviews performed by the Federal Office of Public Health and expiring patents on several original medications. Immunosuppressants once again formed the most expensive drug group, although they were closely followed by cancer drugs. In 2018, a total of 22 new active ingredients came onto the market, primarily in these two drug groups. There is great savings potential as far as biosimilars of biologically produced drugs are concerned. However, Swiss doctors still mainly prescribe original products. That’s the reason why more binding regulations are required for doctors to prescribe cheaper alternatives. Otherwise, an enormous savings potential might not be exploited in the Swiss healthcare system.

Seasonal fluctuations and differences between cantons regarding the prescription of antibiotics

There has been a worldwide increase in infections with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and Switzerland is no exception. The Drug Report investigates the prescription of antibiotics in the outpatient sector during the period from 2012 to 2018. Around 20 per cent of the population buys at least one antibiotic annually. Notably in the majority of cases, broad-spectrum antibiotics are prescribed instead of narrow-spectrum antibiotics. This development goes hand in hand with a low percentage of laboratory tests (18%) for the pathogen and resistance testing prior to a prescription. This is in spite of the fact that laboratory tests could be helpful to ensure the correct use of antibiotics. Seasonal fluctuations in the prescription of antibiotics indicate that viral diseases, such as respiratory tract infections, are treated inappropriately with antibiotics. Furthermore, antibiotics are used very differently in the various regions of Switzerland. There isn’t the same level of awareness everywhere of the careful use of antibiotics.

Analysing interactions highlights potential where drug quality is concerned

If certain drugs are combined with each other, such as certain blood thinners and gastric acid inhibitors, this may result in negative interactions between the active ingredients. This in turn can lead to a loss of effectiveness or serious, adverse events. The analysis of ten selected drug combinations highlights great room for improvement concerning the quality of drugs. During this process, it became evident, that the problem isn’t solely related to the interface because the interacting drugs are largely prescribed or dispensed by the same service provider.

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