The controversial sponsorship deal between Sanofi-Aventis and the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute has been found to be in breach of the Medicines Australia code of conduct.

Under the deal, for every Plavix script dispensed through retail pharmacy in 2009, Sanofi-Aventis agreed to donate 25 cents to support the Baker’s medical research and preventative health programs. The Baker’s logo appeared on ads in the medical press for Plavix.

You can read some of the concerns about the deal here, here, here – and the Baker’s response here.

And this is a comment by Ken Harvey, who lodged the formal complaint to the code of conduct committee. Harvey recently received a note from the committee saying that their 18 May meeting had held that the deal was in breach of  7.1.2. of the code. This states:

7.1.2 No sponsorship should be conditional upon any obligation to prescribe a particular product. Nothing should be offered or provided in a manner or on conditions that would interfere with the independence of a healthcare professional’s prescribing or dispensing practices.

The committee held that the company should cease the advertising and linking a donation or sponsorship via script sales, and imposed a fine of $25,000.

The matter is not necessarily over, however. The company may appeal against the decision.

If the campaign does end up costing the company $25,000, that’s not a big hit in the scheme of these things. It’s the Baker that’s the real loser. Being seen as an agent of pharma marketing is not a good look for a medical research institute – and even less so when the campaign becomes discredited like this.

Post Script: this is the response from the Baker’s spokeswoman when asked to comment. “As we have not been privy to this enquiry or the determination, it really isn’t possible for us to comment.”