Characteristics of pharmaceutical translation

Published on 03/11/2021

It is true that any kind of translation requires great precision. However, when it comes to pharmaceutical translation, we are entering a particularly sensitive area.

Since it is directly related to health, the room for mistakes is practically zero. The consequences of mistranslation could be very serious.

1. What is a pharmaceutical translation?

When we talk about pharmaceutical translation, we are talking about all documents used in the pharmaceutical sector.

Clients can be research organisations, laboratories, drug manufacturers, medical journals or pharmaceutical publishers.

2. What types of pharmaceutical documents are frequently translated?

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is responsible for monitoring the quality of medicines administered in pharmacies and health care facilities in the European Union.

From the manufacturing process to marketing, there are several point at which professional translation services are required.

Some of the fields covered by pharmaceutical translation are: drug formulation, biopharmaceutics, biophysics, molecular biology, clinical biochemistry, dermopharmaceutics, pharmacotherapy, microbiology, orthopaedics, among others.

2.1 Types of documents

Some examples of documents covered by pharmaceutical translation are:

  • Package leaflets and technical data sheets for medicinal products
  • Pharmaceutical research and surveys
  • Clinical trials
  • Chemical patents
  • Laboratory documents
  • Labelling and packaging translation
  • Specialised articles published or to be published in scientific journals
  • Presentations from the pharmaceutical sector
  • Advertising of pharmaceutical products
  • Herbalist
  • Cosmetics
  • Perfumery

3. What are the problems caused by translation mistakes?

As I said at the beginning of this article, the pharmaceutical field directly affects health, so the margin for errors is next to nil. The consequences of a translation mistake could be disastrous.

For example, when translating package leaflets and technical data sheets for medicines, the posology of the medicine is specified, as well as its benefits and contraindications.

A translation error could change the medicine’s posology, resulting in problems with the doses ingested by patients. Some medicines can be potentially dangerous if they interact with certain other products, while others have to be administered at specific times.

On the other hand, an unfortunate translation mistake may lead to a ban on the marketing of a given pharmaceutical product. This then results in financial loss for the pharmaceutical company.

4. The importance of specialised translators

Pharmaceutical translation requires a high degree of specialisation in pharmaceutical terminology, as well as chemistry, biochemistry and even medical terminology.

A good pharmaceutical translation should use clear and concise language that does not leave room for free interpretation. Puns and metaphors do not exist in a technical document.

The constant updating of the sector and the high content of specific terminology require a translator specialised in the industry with great documentation skills.

Likewise, the communicative capacity of the translation directly affects the brand image and its reputation. After all, if the package leaflet is not clear, the user may choose to use another medicine in the future.

5. What skills should a pharmaceutical translator have?

We strongly advise against leaving pharmaceutical translations, or technical translations in general, in the hands of inexperienced translators. A professional pharmaceutical translator should have the following skills:

  • Fully fluent in both working languages
  • General knowledge of chemistry, biology and medicine
  • Proficiency in industry jargon and technical jargon
  • Constant updates on developments in the sector
  • Confidentiality of information

At AbroadLink we have a team of experienced and specialised translators. Contact us and get your no-obligation quote.

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