The amount of money Minnesota doctors receive from pharmaceutical companies for everything from research to consulting has declined since clinic groups tightened rules on when doctors can accept industry funding.
An analysis by the St. Paul Pioneer Press published Friday shows total payments to doctors totaled $13 million in 2008, which is millions of dollars less than doctors received in each of the previous five years.
The bad economy might have reduced drug company spending on marketing and lecture sponsorships, but the newspaper reports that the recent scrutiny on drug company spending might also have had an impact.
"Across the whole state, I think people are becoming more aware of the potential conflict of interest" for doctors with financial ties to drug companies, said Dr. Kenneth Irons, the community clinics director for Duluth-based SMDC Health Systems.
Last year, SMDC banned all drug company gifts and paraphernalia, and doctors filled trash bins with items that had drug company logos, including pens and thermometers.
SMDC still appears in records kept by the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy; last year, the health system received $6,856 from Hospira to support a lecture at St. Mary's Medical Center.
Elsewhere, the University of Minnesota has a task force that proposed guidelines restricting the relationships doctors have with drug companies.
While the guidelines are still in draft form, it's possible discussion of the new restrictions could have discouraged some doctors from accepting industry money, said Dr. Frank Cerra, the university's senior vice president for health sciences.
One university doctor whose payments have decreased dramatically is Dr. S. Charles Schulz, chairman of the university's psychiatry department. Schulz collected $9,546 in speaking fees from pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly in 2008. That compares to more than $500,000 in payments listed under Schulz's name between 2003 and 2007. In the past, Schulz has argued that much of those payments were grants passed directly to the university. He declined to comment when contacted by the Pioneer Press, and a message left for Schulz by the Associated Press on Friday was not immediately returned.
According to the newspaper's analysis, 20 Minnesota doctors received more than $100,000 from pharmaceutical companies last year. That list includes ophthalmologist Dr. Richard Lindstrom of Minnesota Eye Consultants, who received more than $350,000 from Alcon, Allergan and Bausch & Lomb for consulting and research.