Monthly Archives: January 2014

INN is the generic name (yleisnimi, geneerinen nimi)

What does the abbreviation INN mean?  Sometimes I get translation assignments were the Finnish INN for a substance  must be checked. Here is the answer from the World Health Organisation (WHO) site:

“International Nonproprietary Names (INN) identify pharmaceutical substances or active pharmaceutical ingredients. Each INN is a unique name that is globally recognized and is public property. A nonproprietary name is also known as a generic name.”

Source: the WHO site about INNs

A drug (the active substance, vaikuttava aine)  has three different names:

1) trade name (proprietary name, invented name)  = kauppanimi (valmistenimi, tuotemerkki)

2) generic name (non-proprietary name, INN)  = geneerinen nimi, yleisnimi, INN-nimi

3) chemical name = kemiallinen nimi

The INNs that have been confirmed in Finnish are listed in English, Latin and Finnish by the Finnish authority, Fimea, on this web site.  (to open the list, please click on “Luettelo lääkeaineiden yleisnimistä”).

These INNs should be used, e.g. in the EU cross-border prescriptions  (eurooppalainen lääkemääräys).

A transdermal patch in a sachet – laastari annospussissa?

I am translating product information where there is a transdermal patch ( apatch that releases the drug slowly through the skin, depotlaastari  in Finnish).  Each patch (laastari in Finnish, ) is in a sachet (annospussi in Finnish, similarly dospåse in Swedish). Both laastari  and annospussi are included in the Standard Terms document.  Laastari is completely OK, but “annospussi“? Annos is a dose, pussi is a bag or a pouch.  (Pussi can also be a big,  e.g. a plastic bag for carrying groceries home from the supermarket.  However, sachet is a small bag.  Well, it could be argued that pussi should be replaced by “pussukka”, an everyday word for a small bag  (which is not suitable for the context anyway) or by “pikkupussi” or “pieni pussi” (small bag), but that is not what I am looking at now. ) My question is whether a patch (laastari) can be packed in an annospussi? Can a patch be a dose? If anyone has a good answer, please tell me. However,  as long as “annospussi” is the only translation for “sachet” in Standard Terms,  I think I have no other choice than to to stick to using it, also when talking about the pack of a single transdermal patch.  Or do I have a choice?

Where to find information about orphan drugs (in Finnish)?

An orphan drug is “harvinaislääke” in Finnish, and means “harvinaiseen sairauteen käytetty lääkeaine, jonka tutkimiseen ja valmistamiseen on kaupallisissa lääkeyhtiöissä menekin vähäisyyden takia usein vain vähän kiinnostusta”  (definition taken from the online version of the medical dictionary Lääketieteen termit).  These drugs are listed in the EU register for orphan drugs .

Besides, there is information about orphan drugs and rare diseases on the Orphanet web page. (You can also choose another language than Finnish.)  Fimea has published an article about these drugs and rare diseases in 2011.  The article is written by Jaana Kallio and Veijo Saano and from it one can learn that in the EU, there is a committee called COMP which means Committee for Orphan Medicinal Products, in Finnish “harvinaislääkekomitea”. In this article, the term “orphan drug designation” has been translated as “harvinaislääkestatus”.

Why “naisia” instead of the template word “naisten” (women)?

I made a SPC update (decentralized procedure) including some sentences in section 4.6, Fertility, pregnancy and lactation (Hedelmällisyys, raskaus ja imetys). Some of the phrases must be taken directly from  Appendix I, “Pregnancy and Lactation” (Raskaus ja imetys). There was a phrase  “Women of childbearing potential should be advised to avoid becoming pregnant during treatment“. I had translated it as follows: “Naisia, jotka voivat tulla raskaaksi, on neuvottava välttämään raskaaksi tulemista hoidon aikana.” ( the parts that can be taken directly from Appendix I are in italics here).

After delivery, I got a question from the translation agency:  Why did I write “naisia” and not “naisten” as in the template. Was there a grammatical reason for that?

Yes, the reason is grammatical. Finnish nouns can have hundreds or thousands different forms. The reason for this change is the change of the verb structure in the sentence.

The template phrase ( Pregnancy, [3], third phrase) is as follows (only relevant parts copied here):

  • Women of childbearing potential have to use effective contraception during treatment.
  • Naisten, jotka voivat tulla raskaaksi, on käytettävä tehokasta ehkäisyä hoidon aikana.

In Finnish, the verb structure “have to use” (on käytettävä) requires a different case form in the preceding noun than the verb structure “should be advised to avoid” (on neuvottava välttämään).

The plural basic (nominative) form of “nainen” (woman) is “naiset” (women).  Case endings are used in Finnish to replace the preposions of the Indo-European languages (at, on, in, with, from, for, etc). So, the plural form of “women” can be anything of the following: naiset (nominative), naisten/naisien (genitive, two alternative forms are possible), naisia (partitive), naisina (essive), naisiksi (translative), naisissa (inessive), naisista (elative), naisiin (illative), naisilla (adessive), naisilta (ablative), naisille (allative). In addition, there are three other cases but I list them here as they are of minor importance (practically not used with the word “woman”). And there is one more case that is common, accusative, but it always looks like either a) nominative, b) partitive, so there is no separate form for it.

And this was only the plural. The corresponding singular forms for the word “nainen” (nominative for a woman) are nainen, naisen, naista, naisena, naiseksi, naisessa, naisesta, naiseen, naisella, naiselta, naiselle. When comparing these with the plural forms, one can see that the plural marker in Finnish often is the letter in the middle of the word. The plural marker in the nominative is, however, -t in the end of the word.

Besides, many other endings can be attached to nouns to give further meanings to the word.  E. g.  “also” (-kin) can be added as follows: (singular) nainenkin (also a woman), naisenkin (genitive, also of a woman), naistakin, naisenakin, naiseksikin, naisessakin, naisestakin, naiseenkin, naisellakin, naiseltakin, naisellekin. The corresponding plurals are naisetkin, naistenkin/naisienkin, naisiakin, naisinakin, naisiksikin, naisissakin, naisistakin, naisiinkin, naisillakin, naisiltakin, naisillekin.

“Anorexia” is not “anoreksia” in Finnish…!

Like many times before, I came across of the English term “anorexia” as an adverse effect of a drug. I was about to translate it as “anoreksia”, but then I checked in Terminologian tietokannat (the comprehensive Finnish medical dictionaries online).  Yes, indeed, anorexia must be translated as “ruokahaluttomuus” (lack of appetite) into Finnish, and not as “anoreksia”.  I was about to make a mistake here because in Finnish everyday language, “anoreksia” means the disease anorexia nervosa.  For example, I recall having explained to my child that someone we know and who is very thin is suffering from “anoreksia”,  a very serious disease.  And it never came to my mind that I could call this disease “laihuushäiriö” (“thinness disorder”), which seems to be,  according to Terminologian tietokannat, a synonym of anoreksia.  But from now on, I will certainly remember that “anorexia” is not “anoreksia” in the Finnish medical language. Dangerous “faux amis”, these two words!

I think the term”anorexia nervosa” was more commonly used in Finnish some decades ago. By now “nervosa” has been dropped out of the word and the disease has become simply “anoreksia”. It seems that the same confusion is present in English :  an English Wikipedia article ( tells that “Outside of medical literature, the terms anorexia nervosa and anorexia are often used interchangeably; however, anorexia is simply a medical term for lack of appetite, and people with anorexia nervosa do not, in fact, lose their appetites.”

Finnish “Pregnancy and Lactation” Appendix updated (too) quietly in 2011

There has been a small template update that I had been unaware of for as long as 2 years (!), although I have been working on the EMA documents almost weekly.  I think I am not the only translator that has not noticed this small change; I have saved the template on my computer in 2009, and  I have not re-opened the document on the EMA webpage, as  their document listing says that this document was last updated on 04/11/2009.  However, four phrases in the Finnish document have been updated again in October, 2011.  I came across the change only when a translation agency asked me to re-check this phrase  in one of my translations.  Still, just a couple of weeks ago, another translation agency  sent me the 2009 Finnish template without the October 2011 change as a reference for a job.

Choose as follows:  Regulatory > Human medicines > Product information > Product-information templates, and then, in the Appendices listing,  choose the Finnish language template (FI) of the Appendix I – Statements for use in section 4.6 ‘pregnancy and lactation’ of the summary of product characteristics.

The original English phrase (bold letters are mine):

<Women of childbearing potential have to use effective contraception <during <and up to {number} weeks after> treatment.>>

The new Finnish version:

<Naisten, jotka voivat tulla raskaaksi, on käytettävä tehokasta ehkäisyä <hoidon aikana <ja {numero} viikkoa hoidon päättymisen jälkeen>>.

The old version was  Hedelmällisessä iässä olevien naisten on käytettävä…

I wish translators had a way to get information about template changes automatically..! I think many of us are still using the old wording!