Language Intelligence for Life Sciences

Partner with Seasoned Language Services Providers 

For years, many of the world’s life sciences researchers have collaborated with one another in any number of ways. Whether on short-term projects or on larger international collaborative partnerships, researchers have recognized the immense value in joining forces with the world’s greatest minds. In fact, this collaboration has become essential in the face of a great many global health threats from the AIDS epidemic to the growing concern over climatic changes.

American Thoracic Society

Perhaps one of the most well-known examples of global collaboration in life sciences is that of the American Thoracic Society (ATS). Established in 1905, ATS now works in partnership with the European Respiratory Society, the Latin American Thoracic Society, the Asian Pacific Society of Respirology, and the World Health Organization (WHO), among many others. 

As an international organization, “ATS is committed to improving lung health around the globe”1 and now boasts membership from 129 countries as it strives to meet its goal through five primary pillars:

  1. Pursuing a broad global health policy
  2. Engaging and collaborating with international health organizations
  3. Providing global education research, and research training
  4. Engaging ATS members to participate in global initiatives
  5. Providing technical assistance and other capacity to build support2

With such a diverse membership, how does ATC – or any life sciences research center for that matter – effectively communicate its research and education among all its members? Simply put, translation and localization play a key role. Not only must their published documents and guidelines go through a rigorous translation process, but they sometimes need to be localized to be clearly understood by a specific cultural or regional group. In the west, for example, smoking is the most common cause for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). However, in other parts of the world, the main cause is likely due to cooking fumes or even sandstorms such as is the case in the Middle East or in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is of critical importance then, that all research documentation is accurately translated to reflect these differences.3 

Outside of the medical research field, it is equally as important for all organizations within the life sciences field to invest in professional translation services.

Regulatory Compliance for Life Sciences Translations

It cannot be overstated how imperative it is to ensure all documents within the life sciences industry are accurately translated. From package inserts on food and drug labels to medical device instructions, not only can inaccurate translations lead to physical harm, but they can also result in a patient’s loss of life.

In France, between 2004 and 2005, four patients being treated for prostate cancer died and dozens more were adversely affected with overdoses of radiation that lasted for over a year. How did this happen? The software that defined the doses to be administered had not been translated into French by the US medical device manufacturer. As a result, the hospital relied on bilingual staff members who inaccurately translated the instructions. In Germany, between 2006 and 2007, 47 patients received botched knee replacements. After a thorough investigation, it was determined that one of the root causes was again, inaccuracies in translation. The original outer package of the prosthesis which was written in English was not translated into German. Again, the hospital relied on a staff member to provide the translation, and again the translation was inaccurate, resulting in patient harm.4

Partner With Life Sciences LSPs

In the United States, Drs. Iman Sharif and Julia Tse surveyed a total of 286 pharmacies in the Bronx, New York where nearly 50 percent of the population speaks Spanish. The survey set out to find out whether the participating pharmacies provided medicine labels in Spanish to their Spanish-speaking customers. Although roughly three-quarters did provide Spanish translations, the vast majority relied on machine translation. When the doctors examined 76 of the computer-generated translations, they found serious mistakes “which resulted in an overall error rate of 50%.”5

 

Translation requirements within the Life Sciences sector can vary greatly depending on the product and the intended audience. Whether you require pharmaceutical or medical device translations at the local, national, or international level, each of these target markets will likely have its own established regulatory body and standards. It is imperative that pharmaceutical companies, pharmaceutical manufacturers, biotechnology companies, clinical research organizations (CROs), food and drug manufacturers, and manufacturers of medical and surgical devices invest in language service providers (LSPs) that specialize in life sciences. When it comes to instructions of use, adverse events reports, regulatory compliance documents, or virtually any documentation that affects patient safety, investing in a team of seasoned medical translators can literally save lives.

Instill confidence in the world at large by placing your trust in LSPs with life sciences expertise, stringent quality control processes, and a firm handle on all regulatory laws within the United States and abroad.

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REFERENCES

1 Butrous, Ghazwan. “International Cooperation to Promote Advances in Medicine.” Annals of Thoracic Medicine, Medknow Publications, July 2008, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2700441/.

2 American Thoracic Society – Global Health, https://www.thoracic.org/about/global-public-health/.

3 Butrous, Ghazwan. “International Cooperation to Promote Advances in Medicine.” Annals of Thoracic Medicine, Medknow Publications, July 2008, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2700441/.

4 “Translation Errors Can Have a Dramatic Impact on Patient Safety.” Excel Translations, 16 July 2018, https://exceltranslations.com/translation-errors-impact-patient-safety/.

5 Sharif, Iman, and Julia Tse. “Accuracy of Computer-Generated, Spanish-Language Medicine Labels.” Pediatrics, U.S. National Library of Medicine, May 2010, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3118429/.