Prices of medicines in the UK are 7% below the average for the European Union as a whole, while in Switzerland they are a massive 87% above average, according to a new survey by Eurostat, the EU’s statistical office.

The study examined the prices of 181 best-selling pharmaceutical products in 33 European countries, based on their prices in November 2005 in the 25 countries which made up the EU during that year (EU25). Some 75% of the medicines were original brand-name products and 25% were generics.

Switzerland had by far the biggest increase over the EU25 average of 100, at 87% over, followed by Iceland, where prices were 60% above average, the study found. Five member states had prices 15%-30% above EU25, namely Germany (+28%), Denmark (+21%), Norway (+20%), Ireland (+19%) and Italy (+18%). Next were Finland, (+11%), the Netherlands (+9%), Austria (+7%), Malta and Belgium (both +6%), Luxembourg (+3%) and Cyprus (+2%).

The next group were slightly below EU25, with Swedish prices 5%, Portugal 6% and the UK 7% below the average. France was 9% under and Slovakia 14% below.

Then there is a large group of countries where prices are between 21% and 72% below the average, namely Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Spain, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Croatia and Turkey.

The lowest price levels were found in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, at 42% below EU25.

Spending on pharmaceuticals averaged 1.5% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the 33 countries studied for the report, while for households the median percentage was 1.3%, says Eurostat. The 33 countries examined for the study included the original EU25, plus the three candidate countries - Croatia, Macedonia, Turkey – plus European Free Trade Area (EFTA) nations Iceland, Norway and Switzerland By Lynne Taylor.