The Times newspaper has claimed that a company set up by newly appointed OBE, Vijay Patel, has cost the NHS £50 million, in an article questioning his inclusion in the New Year Honours list.
In the article, the newspaper say that 69-year-old Patel set up Atnahs, a company that “exploited a loophole in health service rules to increase the price of old medicines for which it was the sole supplier by up to 2,500 per cent.”
It alleges that the firm increased the price of a packet of antidepressants from £5.71 to £154 with an insomnia treatment now costing more than £138 instead of £12.10 and claims seven of the company’s medicines alone cost the NHS an extra £16.3 million in 2017.
The story was first covered in the newspaper in 2016 by a front-page Times investigation, but according the latest article, costs have not been reduced as a result.
This is despite a bill being passed in 2017 which gave ministers the power to impose lower prices if taxpayers are being overcharged. However, the health secretary is yet to use these powers and during a Commons debate on the bill, Atnahs was criticised by name.
According to the Times, the decision to include Mr Patel on the list designed to recognise those who have “committed themselves to serving and helping Britain” has “prompted an outcry from doctors and pharmacists”. They claim it will also raise questions about vetting by the independent committee that makes decisions on honours.
Along with his brother Bhikhu, Mr Patel arrived in the UK in 1967 as penniless migrants. Vijay trained as a chemist and built a chain of pharmacies before moving into the sale of medicines, initially with the wholesaler Waymade and then as a supplier with Amdipharm and Atnahs.
Along with his brother, he founded the Shanta Foundation, named after their mother, as the “philanthropic arm” of one of their businesses which is a health and education charity working in Kenya, India and Britain.