Patient information leaflet translation

What does it consist of?


Pharmaceutical translation is enormous and covers a large field, also adds a difficulty to the existing responsibility of the translator, and is that the health of people is at stake, so you have to be especially careful with the words and the way you express yourself.


Documentation and internalization of the topic, as well as appropriate tools, is vital. For example, parallel texts (other medicinal products already on the market that have passed all EU standards and certifications) are the most useful way to achieve translation with maximum consistency and guaranteed accuracy. Here we have two very useful pages to find one: (full prospectus in Spanish) (full prospectus in English)

Ease of comprehension, the main objective


This type of translation (specialized, scientific branch) follows a very marked and schematic structure, so it is easily recognizable. There are no major differences between languages such as English and Spanish, both have major sections such as the name of the drug, composition, use, dosage, contraindications, warnings, etc..


They have a simple grammar with simple sentences and imperative verbs (sometimes you even find cases in English with infinitive).

This type of texts are in numerous occasions, due to their style and specific lexical density, complicated for the patients and the more clarity they have at the time of the explanation the more it will help them to follow these treatments in an effective way, reason why it is necessary to find a middle ground between what the law obliges to put in the prospectus and what people really need to know.


Drug translation is one of the most interesting and prolific fields of medical translation; not only because of the enormous professional challenge these texts can pose for a translator, but also because drugs are a fundamental advance in modern life and save millions of lives every day. In fact, drug leaflets are so important that in Spain it is obligatory to introduce them always inside the packaging of the drug itself, a fact stipulated by law. You can read on to discover some key tips (observation and research) and the formal peculiarities of the prospectuses according to the culture for which they are intended. Because this translation of drugs is a whole world!

Our responsibility


As translators, our responsibility is crucial because the patient’s life is at stake. But it is also not a question of panicking every time we carry out a drug translation. To prevent this from happening, we want to contribute to everyone’s peace of mind and safety with some key tips. When dealing with the translation of medicines, observe: take a good look at the format of the product leaflet (design, structure, use of identifying colours…) and the nature of the product (in the case of capsules, syrup, inhaler, tablets, cream, injectable solution…), as this will enable you to discover the route of administration of the medicine (oral, topical, anal…) and to which extract of the population it is indicated; and investigate: identify the field of medicine in which the pathologies for which the product is indicated are included and document this in depth (read statistics, reports and forecasts, find out about the latest developments in the study of pathologies…). However, it is important to always have reliable sources that can support your decisions when translating medicines.


But, as in everything, cultural knowledge is also very important when translating medicines. In this particular field, cultural aspects mainly affect the structure and formal characteristics of prospectuses. For example, in Spain, one of the rules governing the edition of leaflets indicates that the wording must be clear and easy for the consumer to understand, as the intention of these texts is to provide information necessary for the patient to make good use of the drug free of displeasure (Imagine that by now you have realized the saving role that has the translation of medicines, right?). In addition, in our country there is a much more recent type of prospectus that has become the most common; we speak of the prospectus structured on the basis of “questions and answers”. However, the requirements are not the same in all countries and in all languages; for example, what happens when we translate medicines in the United States? Here things get a little more complicated. In this country there are up to three types of leaflets, each one addressed to a specific interlocutor: doctor, pharmacist and patient. The information given to the doctor and pharmacist is generally more extensive than that given to the patient, but they are always encouraged to talk to professionals for more information. Therefore, once again it is essential for the translator to know to whom the translation is addressed.


There is no doubt that the field of medicine translation is a whole world that requires highly specialized professionals with a great knowledge of the culture of arrival, but this only makes the satisfaction for a job well done even greater. At Norak we have a specialized drug translation team who will be delighted to be able to put their grain of sand into the transmission of information that can save thousands of lives.