Saxenda for Weight Loss: A #pharma Ghost Writing Case Study | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Weight-loss medications have had a checkered history. But after a long drought in the diet drug market, several new ones have recently been introduced. Last April, drugmaker Novo Nordisk announced its entry, a daily injection called Saxenda, which contains a higher dose of the active ingredient in the company's diabetes drug Victoza.

It's too soon to say what the $1,000-per-month Saxenda will mean for long-term weight control.

But it provides a window into how the pharmaceutical industry is influencing the portrayal of its products in academic journals, a development that has some experts worried.

The same week Saxenda was announced, a top obesity research journal posted a preview of an article that made a strong case for weight-loss pharmaceuticals, specifically touting liraglutide, the scientific name for Saxenda.

At the end of the nine-page article, author Frank L. Greenway, a physician and researcher, disclosed that the drugmaker had paid a consultant to provide him with "writing assistance" on the manuscript. What's more, he wrote that the company, which has U.S. operations in Plainsboro, N.J., got to review the article before publication. In an interview, Greenway said he wrote the article at Novo Nordisk's suggestion.

Greenway, the review author, said Novo Nordisk proposed the idea for the article, to reinforce the idea that obesity is a medical condition.

"They said, 'Can you help write a review to support what is in the literature, to show there are reasons why this should be thought of as a chronic disease rather than bad habits?' " he said.

The writing assistance was provided by a consulting firm called AXON Communications, which has offices in London, Toronto, and New York, but Greenway said he held final responsibility for the content.

"It was sort of a cooperative effort," Greenway said. "I came up with things, and they came up with things."