In December, the Swiss Parliament’s Upper House voted in favour of allowing all non-prescription medicines to be sold in drugstores, merging the Class C (pharmacy-only OTCs) and Class D categories (pharmacy + drugstore OTCs). The vote was made on the condition that the new larger category will be reviewed in the near future, to see which medicines might either be moved to the current Class E free sale category (which includes supermarkets) or reverse-switched, hopefully the former. In the short term, the measure should help to boost both overall OTC growth through increased availability, as well as the fortunes of the little over 500 drugstores in Switzerland, whose number has dwindled a little over the past few years.
As part of the same bill, the Upper House also passed a proposal giving pharmacists the ability to dispense a select list of Rx medicines to consumers without a prescription, which will depend on the pharmacists having already dealt with the purchasing consumer on a previous occasion. Given time and a healthy dose of Swiss caution from pharmacists, these medicines may also find their way on to the self-medication bill.
Meanwhile, the Swiss National Bank’s decision to remove the Swiss Franc’s cap against the Euro in January was a real thorn in the side of Swiss retailers on the nation’s borders, with numerous German pharmacists reporting floods of Swiss consumers pouring into Konstanz to stock up on cheap(er) OTCs. Whether these international pharmacy-shopping trips will continue in the long term remains to be seen, but it may take drugstores starting a price war on their new OTC options to keep the Swiss at home.