U.S. Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) has sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to determine if the agency monitors medical-device companies’ payments to physicians involved in the companies’ clinical studies. The October 22, 2010, letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg asks whether there are “financial interests that the FDA would consider too significant a conflict to be appropriate for a clinical investigator to be involved in the study.”

Grassley, a ranking member of the Senate’s finance committee, has also asked for specifics about how FDA determines if financial interests reported to the agency adversely affect “the rights and welfare of human subjects” and “the integrity and reliability of the clinical studies submitted by manufacturers in support of the approval of their drugs, biologics and devices.” He further seeks details about whether FDA advises manufacturers “on specific steps that should be taken to minimize potential bias” and actions the agency expects companies to take to manage potential conflicts of interest.