Paid writing of malaria trial results

The New England Journal of Medicine recently reported phase III trial results for artesunate + pyronaridine and tucked away in the acknowledgments I noticed this:

We thank Naomi Richardson (Magenta Communications) for developing the first draft of the manuscript and for editorial assistance.

I wondered, why? On one hand, for a well-defined type of study such as a phase III randomized controlled trial the writing can be fairly formulaic and easy to outsource. The data analysis was also conducted by another corporation. As an industry-sponsored study, no doubt the funders wanted a quick, and efficient process once the trial was complete. The additional cost of these services (anyone know how much?) which I suspect are expensive may not be much compared to the entire study budget. Still, it is somehow disappointing to me to see a paper which was not analyzed or written by the scientists who conducted the work. Is the process not important and what are we losing to the CRO culture which dominates these days? By all accounts (number of previous publications), Dr Ronnatrai Rueangweerayut who is the first-author, could have benefited from the writing experience. How else will we build scientific capacity?



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