WASHINGTON, DC: Direct-to- consumer pharma advertising in the US will now be subject to a new voluntary code of conduct, which promises only to promote drugs that have received government approval. Also to make it clear when actors are being used to portray doctors.

Under the new guidelines issued by industry body the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (whose membership includes Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline and Johnson & Johnson) only celebrities who actually use a specific product can endorse it.

All ads should also aim to be informative rather than purely promotional, and print executions must now contain the phone number for the government's Food and Drug Administration so drug users can report any side effects.

PhRMA president (and former politician) Billy Tauzin, says the organization "constantly" looks at DTC ads to "see if we can improve them, so they are more informative, more educational and less promotional."

But Peter Lurie, deputy director of health research body Public Citizen, counters: "I think the changes are really trivial."

The Institute of Medicine, which forms part of the National Academy of Sciences, has proposed manufacturers wait two years before advertising drugs, but Tauzin argued this could deny patients potentially valuable information.

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