Bowing to rising criticism of consumer-targeted drug ads, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America trade association has established a set of guiding principles which it plans to send to member companies, encouraging them to develop more accurate and balanced advertisements.

The voluntary guidelines state that ads "should be accurate and not misleading; make claims only when supported by substantial evidence; reflect balance between risks and benefits and be consistent with FDA approved labelling."

Pharma companies are also urged to target ads to appropriate age groups and audiences as well as discussing advertising copy with physicians prior to a new campaign.

The move comes in the wake of criticism from patients, doctors and lawmakers that companies fail to include adequate information about potential side-effects and risks associated with new drugs.

Drug ads targeted at consumers have become big business, reaching an estimated $2.8 billion (€2.3bn; £1.6bn) last year.

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