There is an old saying that ‘crime doesn’t pay’, but, in a system based upon the robbery of workers of the fruits of their labour power, who really believes that?
Step forward Vijay Patel, the latest person to demonstrate that crime pays extremely well, thank you – if that crime is against the right target and falls in line with the interests of the bourgeois 0.1 percent who really run Britain,
Mr Patel was given an OBE in the 2019 new year’s honours list for his “services to business and philanthropy”.
Patel, who set up the drug distribution company Atnahs, set out to relieve the struggling NHS of huge amounts of its much-needed cash by seizing on a ‘loophole’ in health service rules so as to vastly overprice medicines for which he was the sole distributor.
He also co-founded, with his brother, another company, Amdipharm, which used the same ‘loophole’ to carry out the same practice, which they sold to a private equity firm for £367m in 2012.
The rules on drug provision to the NHS were changed to allow suppliers to drop brand names from old medicines and sell them as unbranded generics. The two companies were the sole suppliers of certain medicines and this new rule allowed them to charge what they wished for these now unbranded drugs.
Atnah saw profits on some of the drugs for which it was the sole supplier soar by up to 2,500 percent. Just two examples of Atnahs repricing saw the price of a packet of antidepressants jump from £5.71 to £154, while an insomnia treatment flew from £12.10 to £138.
It must be stated that Mr Patel’s company is not the only drug producer/distributor to indulge in this unsavoury practice, but he is the only one so far this year who has received public accolades for “committing himself to serving and helping Britain”.
This practice by drug companies caused outrage when it was unmasked in newspapers, notably The Times, in 2016 and in 2017 – a year in which the NHS was overcharged by Atnah to the tune of £16.3m. A bill passed through parliament giving ministers the power to impose lower prices if taxpayers are being overcharged, but the health secretary has yet to use this power, and Mr Patel’s company (or any other offender) has yet to lower its prices by one penny.
Indeed, Atnah has stated shamelessly that its “pricing continues to be competitively benchmarked”.
Robbery might not be the technical name for this ‘business practice’ under conditions of capitalism, but what else, in all honesty, can we call it?