Controversial plans to allow pharmaceutical companies to publish medicines information in newspapers have been scrapped by MEPs. The original proposal from the European Commission had been branded "advertising in disguise" by consumer groups, who welcomed the Parliament's U-turn.

BEUC, the EU consumer lobby, had been fiercely critical of the EU executive's plan when it was published in December 2008 but expressed relief at the decision by the European Parliament's public health committee to rewrite the directive.

Advertising prescription medicines is banned throughout Europe, but the Commission was willing to allow companies to provide information in print while retaining the ban on broadcast media.

MEPs said they had now changed the emphasis of the proposal to focus on patients' rights to information rather than making the provision of information an option for pharmaceutical companies.

The public health committee amended the directive to require member states to provide citizens with objective and unbiased information on medicines, and said the public should be protected from unsolicited communication from industry.

The public should be able to access details of what the medicine does, an assessment report on the medicinal product, and details of how to prevent the diseases which it treats, according to the latest draft legislation.

Under the new proposal, member states will have to set up dedicated websites and make information available in printed form.

Pharmaceutical companies will be allowed to provide the public with other "non-promotional information" on the environmental impact of the product or its effect on prices, although they will need permission from regulators to do this.

The industry welcomed the vote, which comes just one week after a full sitting of the Parliament backed new rules on pharmacovigilance.