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NPA chair: No conflict between 'independent' wholesalers and pharmacy

Mr Sodha stressed he has limited involvement with wholesaler Lexon UK

There is “no conflict” between “independent” wholesalers and pharmacies, the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) chair has said in response to claims from a former board member.

Dorset contractor Mike Hewitson resigned from the NPA board in April in protest over the appointment of Nitin Sodha – who is managing director of Knights Chemist chain and non-executive director of wholesaler Lexon UK – as chair.

“At a time when NPA members face an existential battle for survival, made more difficult by the behaviours of wholesalers, large and small, this represents an insoluble conflict of interest,” Mr Hewitson said in a statement posted on Twitter.

Speaking to C+D in a wide-ranging interview in May, Mr Sodha stressed he has limited involvement with Lexon UK.

“I used to chair [Lexon UK] up until two years ago, and now I attend meetings as and when – maybe four in a year – and that is it,” he told C+D.

“A lot of wholesalers support independent [pharmacies], and most independent wholesalers actually provide value,” Mr Sodha added.

“They provide a competitive market in this industry, and they would not exist if they were not providing the right service and competitiveness. So there is no conflict.”

Mr Sodha insisted his involvement with Lexon UK will not interfere with his NPA role, or his management of the Knights Chemist chain.

Read C+D’s exclusive interview with Mr Sodha here.

What do you make of Mr Sodha's comments?

A LOCUM, Community pharmacist

Where was this lynch mob when the previous incumbents were in charge  ?, they didnt do a very good job did they despite their huge wages and associated perks , they've shafted us and no one has bat an eyelid, Nitin has come in and before he has even had time to sit in his chair and pick a phone up has been condemned beyond belief !! , members of the lynch mob , give the man a  chance !!!!!!!!

Alex Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

If you are referring to PSNC, then, perhaps you should read the archives to see how vocal people were about that organisation. If someone, the chair of the organisation representing us, puts out article after article making a publicity for a commercial organisation he has vested interests in rather than setting out his and his board’s vision and strategy for the future of this sector, people have the right to be vocal.

A LOCUM, Community pharmacist

'referring to PSNC' , 'how vocal people were' 

judging by situation now , clearly a 100% failure 

Peter Sainsburys, Community pharmacist

The PSNC was an utter shambles under Sue Sharpe. I doubt she cares much now though.

Paid to fail, what a life.

I thought the dinosaurs died out a long time ago.

Sue Sharpe could not have done a worse job if she just stayed at home every day. Total disgrace.

Watto 59, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor


MB Patel, Community pharmacist

So sad to see that after many great achievements the NPA enjoyed over the past few years, Mr Sodha’s Lexon connections is all the NPA can talk about now. I wonder what the board are thinking? The conflict of interest is not going to go away.

Nitin Sodha, Superintendent Pharmacist

Hi MB, As part of probity, please can you let me know what exactly is the conflict of interest? The NPA is not in distribution, does not supply meds, and is not in wholesaling and L (not promoting ) does not provide indemnity, education and training of acceredited courses, PDM, representation, HR support, and information and advice. So what is the overlap, or is your concern paperbags? Come on, let’s focus on the issues that matter that we understand what the DH wants and shape a joint strategy that creates a win win. In the meantime, the NPA will keep supporting, protecting and representing members to ensure that they are professionally fulfilled, and sustainable.

Nitin Sodha, Superintendent Pharmacist

MB, As regards the wholesale costs, as you know there is already an inquiry and we await outcomes, but can reassure you that the NPA will look into this matter, and I will not be party to an influence. Nitin

Peter Sainsburys, Community pharmacist

Is this a joke Mr Sodha? You are in charge of the NPA. They provide a lot of services, crucially including insurance, to pharmacies. You own loads of pharmacies. Whether you claim to be a party to any influence or not, you should not be working for the NPA, or you must sell your pharmacies.

Otherwise people will always be calling you out on this massive conflict of interest.

Imagine if I owned the insurance company that insures my businesses, as an example. It's just outrageous and a complete scandal that this has been allowed.

Except you don't just own loads of pharmacies, you also have an interest in a wholesaler, and are now working for the NPA. It beggars belief.

Absolutely disgusting behaviour from the people who OK'ed this.

But I guess it was all OK'ed by your mates so nothing to worry about?

I genuinely cannot see why some people love money so much. Absolutely disgusting. Pure greed.

Peter Sainsburys, Community pharmacist

One rule for them and another for us.

Brian AUSTEN, Administration & Support

Maybe each time he attends a NPA meeting he should declare an interest and exclude himself from board meetings. My recollection is this is what should happen!

Nitin Sodha, Superintendent Pharmacist

Brian, Thanks, the NPA has many workstreams, and if there is any area of conflict of interest, Board directors are expected to declare them. I have not sat on any meetings if wholesalers or anybody with a WDL ( this is a crucial point.. there are apparently hundreds of them) are discussed. Hope that’s been reassuring.. and I have promised Ben and anybody who is a an NPA member to attend this debate subject to an NDA and Board approval. I will of course exclude myself..Rgds, Nitin

Ben Merriman, Community pharmacist

As a director of Lexon, you are obliged to promote the success of that company, a company that supplies medicines and medicinal devices to community pharmacies.  If you'd attended zero meetings in the last decade, your responsibility to Lexon stands.  

As chairman of the NPA, you're obliged to promote and support community pharmacies who are finding themselves with their backs to the wall due to (amongst other things) medicines shortages and higher than usual prices of these medicines supplied by wholesalers.

Both roles come with a responsibility to avoid any conflicts of interest. 

So, Mr Sodha, a question for you.  How on earth are you avoiding a conflict of interest?!

Nitin Sodha, Superintendent Pharmacist

Dear Ben,

You ask a legitimate question, and the debate of wholesalers is something I will ask the Board to look at fully and set myself aside and appoint a deputy to Chair if that is wanted . And of course as I have always been be open and transparent to any questions within the Board, and declare now and have always done that there is no conflict of interest. You may want to attend the debate subject to Board approval and and NDA and as I said before happy to meet you separately.

Nitin Sodha, Superintendent Pharmacist

 Hi Ben

One other point, the NPA has an exiStng work stream in this area, where I have not been directly involved or sat in any Committee except answering any questions if asked . Nor have I attempted to directly or indirectly influence this debate. My day job is with CP. Also apologies I am now rushing to work in a pharmacy, so may not get a gap to respond. Have a nice weekend.


Ben Merriman, Community pharmacist

Fair enough.  In the interests of complete transparency then, would you please release the minutes of all board meetings held by the NPA for the last twelve months? 

Ben Merriman, Community pharmacist


Nitin Sodha, Superintendent Pharmacist

Dear Ben, All I can say is that I have never compromised the interests of the NPA and independents and small wholesalers create a competitive market. I hope you would contact me personally in the spirit of constructive, professional debate and clear any issues.

Ben Merriman, Community pharmacist

By not compromising the interests of the NPA, surely you're compromising the interests of the company you're obliged to promote, Lexon?

Tell me, Mr Sodha, how many NPA board discussions have there been regarding wholesalers I'm the last three years? My guess is that such discussions have been commonplace over the last year or so at least, given what the 14,000 UK pharmacies have experienced in that period. What's the point in having a chairman that has to declare an interest, excuse himself and not partake in such discussions?

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I believe the question has been clearly, amicably, and respectively asked here by Ben, Mr Sodha. Using the same response repeatedly is going to be considered disingenuous equivocation at best. 

Not providing an answer to the reasonable question is, in essence, an answer in itself. So in the spirit of constructive debate in an open environment, would you care to answer Ben's question, please?

Peter Sainsburys, Community pharmacist

"Let's step outside and sort this matter out".

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