The main concerns of product regulators are the quality, efficacy and safety of the regulated products. In South Korea today, the regulators now had to worry about language translation. The Korea Times called the attention of the healthcare products regulator for their failure to update their English-language website. When the Regulatory Focus made a review, it was revealed that there were more regulators that are struggling to keep their websites and documents up to date.
The report mentioned that South Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) English-language website still features Chung Seung, the former minister. The new minister, Seung Hee, the first female minister of the Food and Drug Safety Ministry, had been in office for a month. There were efforts done to update parts of the website, including replacing the photograph of the former minister with the incumbent minister, such as on the page showing the Minister’s Message. However, in the minister’s biography page, it still shows the former minister.
According to the newspaper, misinformation is created when the English language website for the country’s food and drug-related regulations and policies are not updated as there are many international visitors to the site.
The language barrier, even if it is online, is still an issue. According to the report, when they compared the official website in Korean and its English language counterpart, the available information are chronologically not the same. The Korean language site features several updates as of this month whereas the latest news items on the English language site are about a year old.
However, it is not only in South Korea that this kind of disparity occurs. Many regulators around the world are challenged by the maintenance of their second-language websites. In countries that are poor in resources, the reasons for non-maintenance could be the lack of time, expertise and staff to translate its vital announcements and critical regulatory documents, as they are more focused on providing the information using the official language of the country.
The Korea Times also took a look at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sites. In the Spanish language website of the FDA, the Spanish versions of some vital FDA publications have not been translated. There are also fewer new articles on the site’s Articulos en Español page than in the official English-language page, which means that other documents are not routinely translated.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) operates in over 12 languages although not all documents are translated from English into the other languages and the website only uses English. There are specific documents such as recruitment information and European public assessment reports that are translated into the official languages of the European Union, although press releases are only available in English.
There is now an ongoing challenge when accessing regulatory information in other languages, which is faced by people who do not speak the official language of the country, and by international regulatory professionals who want information straight from the regulator rather than have the information translated into their own language.
Most companies sell their products globally therefore effective communication is very important for both the regulated industry and the regulators. The language gap should be effectively bridged, a major challenge that should be overcome soonest.