Three headlines that caught our eye over the weekend:

FDA report suggests it’s not quite time for J&J to cut the ribbon on its brand-recovery campaign. The New York Times looks at the most recent inspection report the agency filed on J&J’s troubled Puerto Rico plant, which documents “distribution of drugs that failed quality requirements, a failure to identify product defects during routine testing, failure to detect incorrect expiration dates on drug labels, failure to adequately investigate product problems, failure to follow laboratory controls and inadequate training of lab staff.” The report goes through early November; earlier this month, more manufacturing problems led the company to make another huge wholesale recall of more than 9 million bottles of liquid Tylenol, 4 million packages of Benadryl, as well as Motrin and Rolaids products.

As concerns of nationwide counterfeiting problems grow, India commissions a feasibility study on a federal computerized distribution system to better track drugs through the supply chain. In addition to this survey of stakeholders, India’s drug regulatory agency, DCGI, is also encouraging smaller drug companies to use national subsidies to help with set-up costs of a barcoding system. “Both developments tie in with recent initiatives by the Indian government to try to improve the transparency of India’s pharmaceutical sector – a critical supplier of essential generic medicines for countries around the world – and shake off its image as a hub for counterfeit and substandard drugs,” Securing Pharma writes.

And American Medical News, the online news arm of the American Medical Association, sees a significant drop in doctors’ financial ties to drugmakers. Using follow-up survey data on commercial CME, meals, and samples in a recent Annals of Internal Medicine article, the AMN suggests the last five years have seen a sea-change in the way industry markets to doctors (or conversely, the way doctors accept industry’s advances.)

But though there may be a trend here, recent payment data from Massachusetts’ disclosure law and aggregators like PharmaShine and ProPublica suggest that hundreds of millions of dollars are still going from industry marketing budgets to physicians’ pockets each year.

The future federal sunshine law, as well as state and other AMC public disclosure regs (which barely got a paragraph here) are key: not only as potential driving factors in the trends that AMN is pointing to, but as sources of data that suggest the drop off of physician-industry coziness may not be quite as simple as the AMN suggests.

The article also gives a lot of space to the voluntary PhRMA conduct code and AMA’s own code, both of which are relatively weak and unenforceable compared to many academic medical center policies, and which were, chronologically, responses to pressure for system reform rather than drivers of such change, as the AMN article implies.

–Kate Petersen, PostScript blogger