Why is accuracy in pharmaceutical translation so important?

August 10, 2022

Medical advancement is a global pursuit. Consider the pandemic; scientists worldwide worked tirelessly to develop vaccinations that could be used for everyone, in every country. Pharmaceutical translation plays a crucial role in facilitating this global sharing of knowledge and solutions. And to do so successfully, it must be accurate.


Below, we explore ways in which pharmaceutical translation supports this global industry and why quality is so important.

medication, treatments, pharmaceutical

Increasing accessibility of medical knowledge

Pharmaceutical researchers dedicate their working life to understanding human conditions and diseases and developing treatment solutions and procedures that offer a remedy. These treatments can often be life-changing for patients. But without translation, they would not be available in other countries.


Pharmaceutical translation enables researchers, doctors and anyone involved in the healthcare industry to understand the science behind the latest treatments so they can provide the same help to their patients. Accuracy is of the utmost importance when translating this information; any errors could be detrimental to patients’ lives. For example, between 2006 and 2007, a series of 47 consecutive patients suffered from improperly implanted knee prostheses that occurred in part due to an erroneously translated packaging label. This error resulted in over 30 of these patients having to undergo surgical revision to correct the issue.

medication, treatments, pharmaceutical althcare, medical industry

Enhanced patient understanding

Translations in the pharmaceutical industry are not only needed to provide information to other industry specialists but also to help communicate the use of medical devices and pharmaceutical treatments to patients. For these solutions to be used correctly and safely, patients must understand how to administer them. And for global patients, this understanding is ensured by translating the accompanying guidance.


Meticulous attention to detail when ensuring accuracy in these translations is vital. Any mistranslations, even those as small as a missed digit or decimal point, could result in incorrect usage of the treatment, potentially impacting the health and wellbeing of the patient.

Importing and exporting treatments

If a treatment solution is unavailable in a home country, it may be possible to source it from abroad. This global availability of pharmaceutical solutions gives patients a wider choice of treatment options. However, healthcare providers or patients need access to all the essential guidance accompanying that treatment, for example, the Summary of Product Characteristics (SmPC) and reports detailing clinical trials, to evaluate its potential benefits and risks and how the solution aligns with their country’s regulations and guidelines.


Translation of this information ensures healthcare providers and patients have a clear understanding of the treatment and its use so they can make an informed decision on how to use it safely.

Ensuring accurate translation in the pharmaceutical industry

Accurate translation in the pharmaceutical industry is critical, as it has the potential to impact human life. Even the smallest mistakes can be dangerous, so quality control processes must be in place to avoid this possibility.


Translators working on pharmaceutical information should be native to the target market and specialise in pharmaceutical translation so that they have in-depth subject knowledge, are highly familiar with all technical terms and have a local understanding of regulations and legislation. Any work translated should also be verified for accuracy, using equally qualified proofreaders and in-market specialists.


Pharmaceutical and medical documents typically contain numerous technical terms and abbreviations. It is often when translating these abbreviations where translation errors occur, as there are several duplications in use. To ensure the correct one is applied in the translation, translators must understand the relevant context. This issue has been recognised in the industry to the extent that a paper was published in The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety in 2007, entitled ‘The impact of abbreviations on patient safety.’


Translation memory software is also helpful in ensuring accurate translation of terminology. The software can store glossaries specific to a client, organisation or project, identifying the same words or phrases in new documents to be translated or when terms are repeated within a document and suggesting different levels of ‘match.’



When translating pharmaceutical documents, human life can be at stake. Therefore, putting in place measures to ensure it is done with the utmost accuracy is essential. Mission Translate specialises in pharmaceutical translation and has the resources in place to offer a service you can trust. Please visit our Healthcare & Pharmaceutical page to find out more or get in touch with our team with any enquiries.

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