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Generics and biosimilars

What are generics?

Generics offer a cost-effective alternative to original medicines. Generics contain the same active ingredient and composition as older, proven medicines whose patent protection has expired. And they meet the same quality requirements of the Swiss authorities. The same applies to biosimilars, which are imitation products of biologics.

Is there a cheaper alternative for my medicine? To the biosimilar and generic list >

What are the benefits of generics?

By purchasing generics and biosimilars, you benefit in several ways: immediately from a lower price at the pharmacy and, in the long term, from lower premiums – because cheaper medicines contribute to lower healthcare costs. Consistent prescribing of cheaper medicines would enable savings of up to CHF 300 million per year in Switzerland (source: santésuisse).

Why are generics cheaper?

Generics and biosimilars are primarily cheaper than original medicines for two reasons:

  • Expired patent protection: The development of new drugs must be worthwhile. Manufacturers invest a lot of money in research, development and clinical trials. Patent protection for the original preparation allows manufacturers to recoup the high costs. After expiry, other manufacturers may also sell the drug as a generic/biosimilar under a different name but with the same composition, thus eliminating research and development costs.
  • Lower deductible: The statutory deductible for generics/biosimilars covered by statutory health insurance is 10% – but 40% for originals covered by statutory health insurance that are also available as generics/biosimilars.

Save with generics and biosimilars!

Such imitation products are already available for many medicines and new ones are being added all the time. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if there is a suitable generic/biosimilar for the proposed treatment. If you have an original medication on your prescription, the pharmacy can dispense a cheaper generic substitute at your request and inform the doctor’s practice. You too can play your part in stabilising premiums!

A pharmacist at the Zur Rose pharmacy

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Save twice with Zur Rose

At the Zur Rose mail-order pharmacy Sympany policyholders receive a 5% discount on generics as well as a host of other benefits.

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Questions and answers on generics and biosimilars

Your doctor or pharmacy will advise you on this. However, you can always have a say in whether you want an expensive branded preparation or a low-cost generic. This has an impact on the cost contribution you pay:

  • Your doctor will decide which medication is best suited for your health problem. If they expressly request the prescription of the branded preparation for medical reasons, the standard deductible of 10% shall be charged. The medical necessity is noted on the prescription and the invoice.
  • If you choose the original medication yourself and without medical reasons, you will pay the increased deductible of 40%.

Yes. Service providers – i.e. your doctor or the pharmacy – are obliged to inform you as soon as a generic medicine is included in the specialities list.

Yes. If your doctor does not prescribe the branded preparation on the prescription for medical reasons, the pharmacy can dispense a low-cost generic. The pharmacy is obliged to inform the prescribing doctor about this so-called substitution.

The medical justification applies per prescription. If your doctor issues a repeat prescription, the medical justification on the prescription is valid for the entire period of use.

You have several options:

  1. Ask your doctor for a generic medicine if you are prescribed a medicine.
  2. Use our generics search if you have received a prescription and would like to check whether a generic is available. Discuss with your doctor or pharmacy whether this generic is suitable for you.
  3. When handing in a prescription at the pharmacy, ask the pharmacy whether there is a generic medicine available.

Generics and biosimilars are sold less frequently in Switzerland than abroad. By increasing the deductible, the federal government wants to promote the purchase of cheaper medicines and thus reduce expenditure on medicines under basic insurance.

Medications differ in name, packaging and price. In the case of generics, the name often consists of a part or an abbreviation of the active ingredient (e.g. ASA for acetylsalicylic acid or ibu- or -fen for ibuprofen) plus the name of the manufacturer. The branded medicines in these cases are called Aspirin® and Brufen®. The packaging usually has a slightly less complex design, which also reflects the lower price.

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