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Lost in Translation

Imagine a regulatory affairs manager or lead buyer in purchasing staring down at their desk one rainy afternoon, somewhat concerned about an email from senior management that simply states: find a good translation supplier and don’t, whatever you do, pick the wrong one…

So, how do you find, trust and build a long-lasting partnership with a translation services provider who will not let you down in a sea of “best” translation companies? It is a multi-million dollar question for medicine makers that want to market their products and services successfully on the global stage.

I’ve learnt that the most glaring “worry factor” is that, unless you speak between the two to 30 different languages you may need, how can you check the quality of the finished product? Unfortunately, by the time the translated packaging, label, patient information leaflet/user documentation or website is out there, it is too late to repair the damage of poor quality translation. For example, in Germany between 2006 and 2007, a translation error resulted in 47 failed knee replacement operations. Two different types of knee prosthesis were available – for use with or without cement. The source language label on the package of the prosthesis included the information that the femoral component was “non-modular cemented,” which was incorrectly translated as “non-cemented” or “without cement.” Those 47 patients had to undergo the knee surgery twice in order to rectify the situation.

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