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Breaking: NPA chair steps down amid drug price claims

Nitin Sodha has stepped down as chairman of the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) in the wake of allegations that Lexon UK, where he is a director, colluded with three other companies to increase the price of a drug to the NHS by 700%.

In a statement Sodha (pictured), who owns shares in Lexon, said he had stepped aside with immediate effect so the NPA “can remain focused on supporting its members” as the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) continues its investigations into allegations that Lexon, Medreich, Alliance Pharma and Focus colluded to increase the price of anti-nausea drug prochlorperazine. A 50-tablet pack of the drug rose from £6.49 to £51.68.

“I am 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 my position as chair,” Sodha said.

NPA chief executive Mark Lyonette said: “The allegations against Lexon don’t relate to Nitin’s work at the NPA, yet he has made a decision to stand aside as chair in the best interests of the association and its members.”

The CMA has given the companies the chance to respond to the allegations which, if found to be true, could result in a fine of up to 10% of each company’s global turnover.

It remains unclear whether Sodha will keep his place on the NPA board. His role as chair has been taken up by Andrew Lane, who owns the AlChem Pharmacy Group and chairs Gloucestershire local pharmaceutical committee. 

The CMA alleges that between June 2013 and July 2018, Lexon, Medreich, Alliance Pharma and Focus agreed not to compete for the supply of prescription-only prochlorperazine 3mg dissolvable tablets in the UK.

It provisionally found the companies entered into an “overarching” agreement allegedly underpinned by two separate arrangements, one between Alliance and Focus, the other between Focus, Lexon and Medreich.

Alliance were accused of supplying prochlorperazine exclusively to Focus who then paid Lexon a share of the profits it earned from the onward sales of Alliance’s product. Lexon were said to have shared these payments with Medreich.

It was also alleged that Lexon and Medreich had taken steps to launch their jointly-developed version of prochlorperazine before entering into that agreement.

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