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In line with global trends, the medical and pharmaceutical sectors are generating increasing volumes of text. Driven by global manufacturing and distribution of products coupled with regulatory demands, these written documents all require translations into local languages.

The near-exponential growth of demand for translation is increasing; tackling all of this work is putting more and more strain on human translators and, consequently, possible alternative solutions are being explored. The advent of the digital age has imprinted its indelible mark on various global industries. A particularly transformative change can be seen in the translation sector, which, like many others, is experiencing the vast impact of evolving technology. Amongst these technologies, one prominent development stands out – the rise of machine translation (MT). MT has thus found its way into medical and pharmaceutical translation as well and is likely to thrive in these two sectors, albeit with notable exceptions.


The Advent of Machine Translation in the Pharmaceutical Industry

Accelerating advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning have acted as the bedrock for the exponential rise of machine translation. These highly sophisticated tools offer an innovative approach to managing extensive volumes of text that need translation, providing unparalleled speed and efficiency. Companies now find themselves in a position to process and disseminate information at a rate previously deemed unattainable.

Nevertheless, as with any technology tool, machine translation is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Understanding its limitations as well as its capabilities, is a critical step for any business considering incorporating machine translation into its operational workflow, especially in the medical and pharmaceutical industries.

Suitability of Machine Translation in Pharmaceutical Texts

Machine translation has proven highly effective for certain types of texts within the aforementioned sectors. Technical documents, scientific reports, certain types of clinical trial documentation, summaries of product characteristics, patient information leaflets and similar often feature repetitive phrases and specialist terminology. Machine translation tools, particularly those well-trained on industry-specific databases, handle these aspects exceptionally well, thus improving productivity and reducing time to market for new drugs.

Despite its impressive capabilities, machine translation shows its shortcomings when dealing with marketing materials such as patient-facing brochures, websites, and advertisements. The cultural nuances and idiomatic language used in such content are often beyond the scope of machine translation. The human element, with its creative potential and intrinsic ability to understand or (even more importantly) adapt to cultural and linguistic subtleties, is unrivalled in these cases.

The Role of Human Translators

Regardless of the tremendous strides made in machine translation technology, human translators’ role in the pharmaceutical industry remains paramount and is unlikely to be phased out in the foreseeable future.

Machine translation, whilst powerful and efficient, isn’t infallible. It’s here that human translators continue to play a critical role, acting as a final barrier to ensure translation quality. They meticulously review machine-generated translations, refine accuracy, verify facts, and enhance stylistic elements, where that is appropriate or necessary. This helps mitigate the risks of errors that could lead to serious consequences in the highly-regulated pharmaceutical industry.

Privacy Concerns in Machine Translation

Amidst these rapidly evolving technologies, privacy considerations must not be ignored. Indeed, the use of machine translation in the pharmaceutical industry, like all data-reliant technology, presents its own set of unique privacy challenges. A key concern arises from the fact that machine translation inputs can be used to further train translation models. This practice, whilst improving translation accuracy, may inadvertently increase the risk of information leaks.

The delicate nature of data within the pharmaceutical and medical sectors exacerbates these concerns. Patient records, clinical study results, proprietary research, and other sensitive information could potentially be compromised, posing serious ethical and legal threats. Furthermore, privacy breaches could undermine public trust, potentially impacting not just individual companies, but the sector as a whole.

In light of this, it is imperative that privacy and data security measures are not just an afterthought, but an integral aspect of implementing machine translation systems. Pharmaceutical companies must, first of all, avoid free web-based machine translation providers at all costs. In collaboration with their chosen language services providers, they must work closely with technology providers to ensure robust encryption and stringent data management protocols. Only then can the full potential of machine translation be realised, without compromising the industry’s ethical responsibilities and regulatory requirements.

Future Outlook: The Relationship between Human and Machine Translation

Rather than viewing machine translation as a tool that will replace human translators, we strongly believe it should be recognised as an innovation that will refine their role. Human translators increasingly work hand in hand with machine translation technology, leveraging the strengths of each to achieve the best results. This emerging trend is a fundamental shift in the translation process, developing an intricate balance between the efficiency of machine translation and the nuanced understanding of human translators.

Additionally, as the pharmaceutical sector strides onward into the realm of AI and machine learning, it must do so with privacy considerations firmly in mind. his is the only way to ensure that the path to progress is both secure and ethically sound.

Incorporating machine translation within the pharmaceutical industry presents unique privacy challenges due to the potential use of input data for further model training, which can risk leaks of sensitive information. It’s crucial for pharmaceutical companies to incorporate stringent privacy and data security measures when working with machine translation systems, ensuring secure and ethical progress in this AI and machine learning-driven landscape.

There is no room for mistakes when the stakes are high. Our services will guarantee that your medical and pharmaceutical translations will be accurate, reliable, and kept strictly confidential. Do you have questions? Contact us at