The less than shining visage of US pharmaceuticals is to undergo a facelift.

Some of the nation's major drug firms are developing voluntary guidelines to curb the claims made for their products in TV commercials and other advertising media.

The move, under the auspices of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), aims to "recapture the trust of the American people".

Companies have been criticized for creating ads that glorify a drug's benefits while minimizing the risks of side effects and for high prices [WAMN: 20-Oct-04].

Says PhRMA president, congressman Billy Tauzin (the former chairman of the influential House Committee on Energy and Commerce: "We obviously have room for improvement. Risk (and) benefit needs to be carefully and seriously discussed in an ad. If we can settle on a set of principles ... we can hopefully settle some of the complaints we have had."

However, Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, says voluntary promises are not enough.

Asks spokesman Rob Schnieder: "Can we really expect drug makers to voluntarily tell us about possible problems in these ads when they know it will hurt their sales?"

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff