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Pharmaceutical Translation & Global Drug Market

July 18, 2011

The need for pharmaceutical translation to tap into global drug markets isn’t news. But sales and growth forecasts for 2011 indicate that translations for China and other emerging markets will become more important than ever. IMS health (a pharmaceutical industry data company) predicts that the global drug market will grow 5 to 7% in 2011, to $880 billion. This is largely the result of impressive growth in prescription drug sales in 17 countries led by China, which alone is predicted to grow by 25-27% this year. The other 17 “pharmerging”  markets will see growth of 15-17%. These numbers are helping offset sluggish sales in pharmaceuticals in North America and Europe–sales in Canada and Europe’s five largest markets will increase only 1-3% this year.

What do these forecasts have to do with pharmaceutical translations? let’s take a closer look at the 17 countries ranked by IMS as high-growth “pharmerging” markets. Besides China, they also predict that Brazil, Russia, and India will experience double-digit growth in pharmaceutical sales. A tier 3 of fast-followers includes Mexico, Vietnam, Pakistan, Egypt, and Indonesia. Unlike North America and Europe, where an English translation is often sufficient for patent and regulatory purposes, tapping into most pharmerging markets requires pharmaceutical translation of numerous documents into multiple languages. For example, patent translations are required for securing IP rights for new products or processes in these markets. While patents for India and South Africa can be filed in English, for the rest, a translation of the full specification will be needed. For regulatory approval in the 17, dossiers, exhibits, and labeling must be translated into each of their official languages. And of course sales and marketing efforts must include expert translation and localization of websites, brochures, and promotional materials.

To sum up, growth in emerging markets poses big opportunities for drug companies but also a number of challenges. It’s critical to consider the ROI in these countries, particularly those with weak intellectual property protection. The added cost of pharmaceutical translations–which can be quite substantial–should also be taken into account.