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  • Writer's pictureRustam Shafikov

Lost in Translation: The Crucial Role of Linguistic Validation in Medical Trials

Medical trials are an essential part of the process of developing new drugs and medical treatments. These trials involve testing the safety and efficacy of potential treatments on human subjects. However, conducting a medical trial is not as simple as just giving patients a new medication and waiting to see what happens. There is a complex process involved in designing, conducting, and analyzing medical trials, including a crucial step called linguistic validation.

Linguistic validation is the process of ensuring that all patient-reported outcomes (PROs) used in a medical trial are accurately translated and culturally adapted for the target population. PROs are questionnaires or surveys that patients complete to report their symptoms or experiences related to a particular medical condition. These outcomes are often used to measure the effectiveness of a new treatment.

In order for PROs to be used in a medical trial, they must be translated into the languages spoken by the target population. However, simply translating a questionnaire word-for-word from one language to another is not sufficient. The translation must also be culturally adapted to ensure that it accurately captures the intended meaning and is relevant to the target population.

This is where linguistic validation comes in. Linguistic validation is a rigorous process that involves several steps to ensure the accuracy and cultural relevance of the translated PROs. The process typically involves the following steps:

  1. Forward translation: The PRO is translated from the source language (usually English) into the target language by a professional translator who is fluent in both languages.

  2. Backward translation: A second professional translator, who is also fluent in both languages, translates the target language back into the source language. This step is important to ensure that the translation accurately reflects the intended meaning of the original questionnaire.

  3. Expert review: The forward and backward translations are reviewed by a panel of experts, including clinicians, patient representatives, and linguists. The panel evaluates the translations for accuracy and cultural relevance.

  4. Cognitive debriefing: The translated PRO is administered to a small group of patients who speak the target language. These patients are asked to provide feedback on the questionnaire, including whether they understand the questions, whether the questions are relevant to their experiences, and whether they feel that any important concepts are missing.

  5. Finalization: Based on the feedback from the expert panel and the cognitive debriefing, the translated PRO is finalized and approved for use in the medical trial.

As a linguistic validator, I have had the opportunity to participate in this crucial step of the medical trial process. My role is to review the translations and ensure that they are accurate, culturally appropriate, and meet the requirements of the regulatory authorities. I work closely with the translation team to ensure that any issues or concerns are addressed and that the final version of the PRO is of the highest quality.

In conclusion, linguistic validation is a critical step in the medical trial process. It ensures that patient-reported outcomes are accurately translated and culturally adapted for the target population, which is essential for obtaining accurate and meaningful data from medical trials. As a linguistic validator, I am proud to contribute to this important work and to help ensure that new medical treatments are safe and effective for all patients, regardless of their language or cultural background.

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