Pharmaceutical translation

In the globalized world in which we live, translation plays a fundamental role in the transmission of scientific knowledge and, specifically, in the advances made in the fields of medicine and pharmacy. For this reason, medical-pharmaceutical translation has become a specialized branch of knowledge in recent years, offering multiple professional opportunities, which has led to an increasing commitment to the development of specific training programs in this field.

However, although it is true that medical and pharmaceutical translation are part of the same field, in this short article we would like to emphasize the characteristics of the pharmaceutical ‘sub-language’, which is the one used for communication in any field of pharmacy and whose common thread is the drug. Medical leaflets and technical data sheets represent the paradigmatic example of pharmaceutical text.

Pharmacy, as a scientific discipline, has always been closely linked to the identification, manufacture and marketing of drugs. In this sense, the notion of ‘industrial pharmacy’ is enormously broad, since it could include all those businesses, stores and laboratories that manufacture, distribute or sell pharmaceutical products. From a translation point of view, laboratories are the most important as they generate a large amount of documentation related to drug development and manufacturing. This documentation includes not only the records and protocols of the different stages of clinical trials, but also the laboratory’s internal notes, training courses for employees or any kind of advertising material about the product.

In Spain, the two main bodies responsible for pharmaceutical processes are, on the one hand, the Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products (AEMPS) and, on the other, the European Medicines Agency (EMA). The information provided by these two institutions can be a valuable resource for translators, especially when it comes to familiarizing themselves with the nomenclature or keeping up to date with new products.

Main features of pharmaceutical language

In relation to pharmaceutical language, it should be taken into account that many of its characteristics can be extrapolated to those of other scientific disciplines. This is the case, for example, of the intention of the message, which has a markedly expository character, since its main function is to transmit detailed information about a given product. Similarly, scientific texts, in general, and pharmaceutical texts, in particular, are characterized by the search for absolute precision, which is even more evident in pharmaceutical texts, where the use of additional explanatory elements is common.

As for the linguistic resources of pharmaceutical language, technical terms are very frequent as well as the use of abbreviations and symbols, which sometimes makes it necessary to resort to specialized terminological sources. In this regard, it is worth noting the enormous lexical growth that occurs in the field of pharmacy, which is continually enriched by the introduction of new drugs and by the incorporation of neologisms from other scientific fields, such as genetics or computer science.

With regard to pharmaceutical terminology, a substantial part of the semantic field of the language of pharmacy is made up of the names of drugs. In this regard, there are four main denominations:

  • Research codes, which are alphanumeric combinations assigned in the research process and, therefore, must remain unchanged.
  • The chemical name, a standardized name that refers to the chemical structure of the drug and is subject to international nomenclature, so when translating it, we must follow the rules established by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC).
  • The trade name, also called “fancy name”, which is a private name chosen by the manufacturer for its pharmaceutical product, so it should not be modified either.
  • The pharmacological name, which refers to the common or generic name most commonly used by health professionals.

Problems and difficulties in pharmaceutical translation

When dealing with the translation of a pharmaceutical text, the first thing to take into account is the preponderance of English as the lingua franca, which means that all other languages are heavily influenced by this language.

One of the most common problems when translating, for example, from English into Spanish, is the greater lexical richness of English, which also offers a greater variety of composition and derivation possibilities compared to other languages. Likewise, another characteristic feature of English that may pose some translation problems is its tendency to elide information that is taken for granted, something that does not occur in Spanish. 

This hegemony of English often leads to the occurrence of calques or borrowings from other languages, which gives rise to the phenomenon of neology. However, care must be taken not to fall into the application of false friends, which are very common in pharmaceutical language, for example:

  • blood pressure: is not *blood pressure*, but “arterial pressure”;
  • physician: is not *Physicist*, but “Physician”;
  • prospect: is not *prospect*, but “perspective” or “possibility”;
  • suffocate: is not *suffocate*, but “choke” or “asphyxiate”.

All this complexity involved in pharmaceutical translation leads us to value it as a discipline with its own character, which requires specialized training for those who want to dedicate themselves to the translation of medicines, a sector that undoubtedly offers a very promising career horizon. At FAST.txt we have the best translators specialized in more than 50 languages, also in the pharmaceutical sector. So, if you need to hire a translation service in the pharmaceutical field, do not hesitate to contact us: you can rely on FAST.txt.

Carlos Sánchez Luis

Pharmaceutical translation


A high degree of specialization

Pharmacy is one of the most significant branches of science in the history of mankind and requires a high degree of specialization, since many branches of health depend on the pharmaceutical area. As far as translation is concerned, we must be particularly careful with this type of text, such as pharmaceutical prescriptions, which will reach consumers and be ingested. For this reason, at we have the best professionals specialized in the pharmaceutical area.

The pharmaceutical sector uses a very specialized language, besides being directly interconnected with all the following branches: legal, administrative, computer science, etc. For this reason, in order to provide a correct translation, we not only need a translator, but the translator must also be specialized in the sector and must know all the specific terms in the language they are going to use in their work.

PHARMACEUTICAL Medicinal prospects, drug advertisements, posters, food labelling -

This sector is constantly being updated by the different government authorities, both in concept and language, which requires a very sophisticated approach to the subject matter and extensive research on the part of the translator. We are witnessing this with the present time that we are experiencing in the globalized world.

Specific expertise has a large team of professional native speaking translators with extensive experience in the pharmaceutical sector. In addition to being translators, they have specific expertise in the field of pharmaceuticals, thus achieving the best possible quality in translation projects.

Our specialized pharmaceutical translators have university degrees in chemistry, pharmacy, biochemistry, etc. We can offer you a translation into any language with high quality and professionalism. Below are some of the types of documents that would require translation for the pharmaceutical sector:

  • Translation of pharmaceutical research
  • Translation of medical certificates (analyses, medical tests, medical examinations, etc.)
  • Translation of pharmacological studies
  • Translation of technical data sheets
  • Translation of manuals for chemical products
  • Translation of publicity materials for pharmaceutical products
  • Translation of product features
  • Translation of specialized articles in scientific journals
  • Translation of material safety data sheets
  • Translation of brochures
  • Translation of blogs

And much more… For more information about our services, please, contact us.

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