Pharmaceutical translations: understanding the customer

Understanding the customer and their processes: that is what makes a successful partnership between pharmaceutical companies and language service providers. Edward Davies, CEO of the new Norak Pharma division of the global localisation services provider Norak, has no doubt about this. “Translations for the pharmaceutical industry are about much more than just communicating words,” Davies explains.

“We are always asking ourselves ‘why?’, right from the very start – what are the reasons behind any given thing we do? For example, when we founded Norak Pharma: why did we create this division?” Edward Davies explains the Norak philosophy. The answer: “We recognised that the industry is facing growing challenges. Apart from COVID-19 with all its associated impacts and developments, the industry increasingly has to deal with compliance, transparency, quality assurance, product and production safety, and public relations, to name but a few examples. That is why we decided to bring together all our pharma expertise, which was previously spread throughout the company, into a central focal point. Of course this still means we can draw on our 30 years of experience with pharmaceutical translations.”

Tailored services for pharma translations

What exactly does that mean for customers? Norak Pharma, Davies explains, can help companies to overcome the challenges mentioned above. “In the translation business, there are two routes we can take; either we simply receive orders, translate the documents and send them back, or we try to understand the specific requirements of the pharmaceutical industry and work in harmony with our customer’s processes, needs and specifications. The latter sums up our approach exactly. Again, these particular characteristics can be different for each client; even if we provide the same service for ten different clients, we might do it in ten different ways. For this very reason, we are investing time to ensure high-quality project management for pharma translations. When we understand the needs of our customers, we can also provide more effective advice.” In this regard, it doesn’t matter whether we are talking about an order worth 100 euros or 100,000 euros.

Translation of pharmaceutical patents

Patent and IP translations are a great example. “Mistranslations of even the most subtle of nuances can expose the customer to large claims for damages,” says Davies. In one recent dispute between two pharmaceutical companies, a fine of 250 million US dollars was imposed, all because a single sentence about the effect of a medication had not been translated one hundred percent correctly. Bearing this in mind, the experts from Norak can alert the customer to potential stumbling blocks in the process and raise awareness. “If a pharmaceutical document needs to be translated into 24 languages, you might end up with 24 different interpretations. The standardisation of terminology across the whole company is crucial. Even the subtle difference between ill and sick in English can result in the wrong tone in the translation.” It is important to take steps with the customer in advance to avoid such problems, so that all our pharma translations run smoothly.

The translator as a link in the supply chain

“One important prerequisite is that pharmaceutical companies understand what we can contribute and recognise where our services fit in with their processes. It is often still the case that they see translations as a mere obligation. We represent an essential part of the supply chain and can support our customers with far more than just simple pharmaceutical translations to reduce their workload.” Davies can already see the first signs of a shift in attitudes in the pharmaceutical industry.

Norak Pharma offers translations into virtually all languages worldwide. “Currently, most of our work comes from EU member states, but we are constantly pushing to extend our reach. However, if a customer has issues with pharma translations in emerging markets, of course we are also ready to handle that – naturally with the same quality for which we are renowned. This reflects the philosophy behind our service”, emphasises Davies.

In terms of content, it doesn’t matter whether the translation concerns a patent, a treatment, clinical trials, toxicological research studies or technical projects such as the construction of pharmaceutical tanks or filling lines – Norak Pharma can handle all of these areas with ease. “The crucial difference is in how the requirements of a specific customer are addressed”, according to Davies.

The use of automated translation (machine translation) and leveraging artificial intelligence are becoming increasingly important in the localisation industry. How much experience does Norak Pharma have in these areas? “Of course we are also involved in these emerging technologies, and are constantly evolving. We see ourselves as innovation leaders in this sector and want to set the standards for pharmaceutical translations”, Davies explains.

CPhI Worldwide: bringing together experts in the pharmaceutical industry

Visitors and exhibitors at the CPhI Worldwide trade fair, to be held in Milan from 9 to 11 November, will have the opportunity to talk face-to-face with Norak Pharma experts. A team from the Pharma division is looking forward to meeting you there. When it comes to the specific requirements of the pharmaceutical industry, the Norak experts will be happy to discuss and give advice.