- Rules governing the advertising of medical products in Britain are being updated to take account of more knowledgeable and demanding consumers.
The new regulations will allow drugs companies to make greater use of medical terminology in ads, relaxing previous restrictions dating back more than 70 years.
But companies are being ordered to step up efforts to ensure no advertising is targeted at children while curbs on the endorsement of medicines by health professionals is being extended.
The amendments are the first for 13 years in the code drawn up by the Proprietary Association of Great Britain, which represents almost all the UK's pharmaceutical advertisers and is responsible for implementing their self-regulatory system.
The changes have been precipitated by an acceleration in the number of drugs being switched from being available only on prescription to being sold over the counter.
More than 60 products have been granted OTC licences in the past five years and the number of switch applications being made to the Medicines Control Agency is currently running at about 35 a year.
At the same time, the growth of new media such as the Internet - raising the danger of prescription medicines being advertised directly to consumers -- has increased the need for a sharpening of the code.
Drugs manufacturers have also been pressing for an amended and simplified code, fearing that they are being denied the chance to run creative and impactful work which can compete for attention in a crowded advertising market.
Sheila Kelly, the PAGB's executive director, said the reason to allow medical terminology into advertising provided it did not encourage excessive use of medicines, was because consumers now had a greater understanding of it.
Meanwhile, the PAGB has, for the first time, set 16 as the minimum age for consumers at whom drugs advertising can be targeted. It has also extended the list of health professionals barred from endorsing products to include nurses, midwives, opticians and dentists.