With the pharmaceutical industry growing rapidly, everyone in the field needs language skills just as much as technical skills in order to stay globally competitive. Here are a few reasons why:


Why Do Pharmaceuticals Need Language?

As technology advances and healthcare needs increase, the biomedical field also has to keep up with the increasing globalization of today’s marketplace. And now that some of the largest pharmaceutical corporations are forming alliances with generic manufacturers around the world, having salespeople and technicians who can communicate clearly and effectively in the global landscape is certainly an advantage. But why? Here are some key reasons why language skills matter for the pharmaceutical industry:


Pharmaceuticals are now operating internationally

In the face of the industry’s rapid growth, pharmaceuticals are changing the way they work— they are now operating internationally. As a result, companies are outsourcing to offshore locations and collaborating with international partners to maximize efficiency.

A Booz & Co report entitled “Pharma Emerging Markets 2.0 – How Emerging Markets Are Driving the Transformation of the Pharmaceutical Industry” even reveals that BRICMT countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, Mexico, and Turkey) are expected to remain the dominant force in the industry, as second-tier markets such as those in Southeast Asia, are increasing in relevance.

So, communication between operations, manufacturing, and research in different parts of the world require the use of extensive communication and language skills. Moreover, this sustainable demand growth in emerging pharmaceutical markets has also created major opportunities, raising the need for another key reason why pharma needs language: localization.


There’s a trend towards localization

Today, localization is a key factor in building a competitive advantage in the market. In the same report by PwC where executives from more than 25 of the top pharmaceutical and generics companies were surveyed, it was found that more than 60 percent of respondents consider investment in local research, development, and manufacturing to be the most effective levers for commercial success in these regions.

It was also noted that the biggest mistake companies make in emerging markets is the “insufficient tailoring of approaches to local needs.” Since patients rely heavily on how a drug is explained and all the other instructions that come with its packaging, making the information easily understood by the consumer is very important. This also goes for treating patients during a consultation.

That’s why multinational pharmaceutical companies are tailoring their products and even their communication practices in a localized manner because even a small translation error in the life sciences industry not only delays and complicates research and production efforts, but it could actually prove harmful.


Communicating with customers and patients is vital

Every day, pharmacists are usually faced with the challenge of communicating under pressure with patients, employees, and physician office staff whose educational backgrounds, levels of understanding, and preferred learning modes differ. So, as much as technical skills are important for people in the field, the ability to communicate effectively is an indispensable skill.

Patients often have questions on dosage levels and side effects related to certain medication and their treatment plan, among other things. Reading the list of instructions that are given out with prescription medication can sometimes be confusing, especially for those that are in the middle of dealing with an illness. The same also goes for interactions with fellow doctors in the field. Thus, pharmacies are looking to employ pharmacy technicians who have good customer service and language skills.


R&D also needs language skills

Research and Development (R&D) is crucial for the growth and future success of research-based pharma companies. This sector ensures that the right study, formulation, and testing is conducted with each new medicine introduced to the market. For that reason, multinational companies like Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb have undertaken research activities to stay competitive and flexible in a world of exponentially growing knowledge.

But research in the pharmaceutical sector can be crucial, time-consuming and extensive. Thus, having the right people who can efficiently communicate between departments —and even countries— is a must. Especially now that drug R&D continues to be carried out at established centers of excellence in developed countries and its manufacture to take place on a completely different continent, there are challenges inherent in developing a sustainable talent pool in offshoring locations, specifically communication barriers that need to be addressed.


Language Skills Matter

Communication in various forms is becoming more important in the evolving world of community pharmacy, especially when miscommunication and mistranslation in the industry can have life-altering consequences. Therefore, pharmacists should refine their communication styles and patterns constantly to ensure patients receive the information they require for effective treatment and so drug R&D be conducted efficiently.

Added with the increasing globalization of pharmaceuticals and the need to localize, many notable companies in the industry such as Sanofi, Johnson and Johnson, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Eli Lilly are already investing in L&D programs to upskill their employees with the necessary communication skills needed for work. Language learning will not just serve as support in an individual’s ongoing learning and development, but also train them for worldwide competence. How about you? What measures are you taking to ensure the global success of your company in the pharmaceutical industry?

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