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National Pharmacy Association

NPA chair steps aside during competition law investigation

The Competition and Markets Authority is investigating Alliance, Focus, Medreich and Lexon UK — a company which lists Nitin Sodha as a director — over allegations of breaking competition law over the anti-nausea medicine prochlorperazine.

Nitin Sodha has stepped aside as chair of the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) amid investigations by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) relating to allegations of “illegal market sharing” against a drug company that lists Sodha as a director.

In a press release issued by the NPA on 3 June 2019, Sodha said he was stepping aside with immediate effect “so that the NPA can remain focused on supporting its members and securing a sustainable future for independent pharmacies, rather than be distracted by continued questions about [his] position as chair”.

Sodha owns shares in Lexon and is also listed as a director of Lexon (UK) Ltd and Lexon UK Holdings Ltd by Companies House

Both of these companies are currently under investigation by the CMA, alongside Alliance, Focus and Medreich over allegations that the companies agreed not to compete for the supply of prescription-only dissolvable prochlorperazine 3mg buccal tablets to the NHS between June 2013 and July 2018.

In a statement of objections issued to the companies on 23 May 2019, the CMA alleged that under an overarching agreement, Alliance Pharmaceuticals supplied prochlorperazine exclusively to Focus, which then paid Lexon a share of the profits it earned on the onward sales of the drug. It is alleged that Lexon then shared the payments it received with Medreich.

Between December 2013 and December 2017, the CMA said the price paid by the NHS per 50-tablet pack of dissolvable prochlorperazine 3mg buccal tablets increased from £6.49 to £51.68. As a result, the CMA says the total price paid by the NHS rose from £2.7m in 2014 to around £7.5m in 2018, despite fewer packs being dispensed.

The CMA said these are “provisional findings” and the companies involved now have the opportunity to make representations to the CMA before a final decision on the allegations is made.

Andrew Lane, a member of the NPA board of management, owner of the Alchem Pharmacy Group and the chair of Gloucestershire local pharmaceutical committee, has taken over the NPA chair’s responsibilities.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2019.20206629

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