A Geneva-based rheumatologist has said he will no longer prescribe Novartis medicines to patients in protest at job losses at the pharmaceutical company, which plans to shutter its production operations in the south-west of the country.
“My only way of protesting is to go on a prescription strike,” doctor Bertrand Buchs wrote on his blog on newspaper La Tribune de Genève on Friday.
On October 25th, Novartis announced it would close its production site in Nyon, dismissing 320 people. Shocked by the news, the rheumatologist decided to boycott the company.
He said he doesn’t understand “the financial logic” behind the firm's decision since the Nyon salaries “are only a small detail in the balance sheet” of Novartis.
The Association of Physicians of Geneva has given him its support “unanimously” and “without hesitation,” Buchs wrote on his blog on Tuesday. He said he also plans to ask his colleagues to join his protest at an upcoming meeting.
“If doctors in the cantons of Geneva and Vaud act together, this may have an impact,” said Buchs, who is also a member of the Christian Democratic Party in Geneva’s cantonal parliament.
The doctor said the move would affect his patients since there are many equivalent products in his field, especially generics, that he can prescribe to substitute Novartis medicines.
However, he pointed out that the well-being of his patients would always remain his top priority: “If a specific treatment requires the Novartis brand, I will give in.”
Buchs said he is upfront about his strike when dealing with patients, adding that they "always have the final say.”
The Directorate-General for Health in Geneva is unperturbed by the boycott. "The therapist has the freedom to prescribe a particular drug, and if the interest of the patient is respected, I don’t see where there's a problem,” Adrien Broad, head of the directorate, told La Tribune de Genève.
Novartis, meanwhile, said it was monitoring the situation and would try to repond to people's concerns.
“The announcement of the closing of the production site has created several reactions in the French-speaking part of Switzerland,” a Novartis press officer told La Tribune de Genève in an e-mail.
“For us the demands of people involved are important, so we try to talk to them directly about the reasons behind [the decision].”