In 2003, it had been estimated that the European market for drugs-of-abuse tests (DATs) was worth approx $85 million (3,4). The top three markets, ranked in order of market revenues, were Germany, the United Kingdom, and Italy. Whereas the rates of market growth in Germany and Italy are likely to decline, demand in the United Kingdom and Ireland is expected to continue to rise. It is forecasted that demand for DATs across the rest of Europe (ROE) is likely to account for up to 30% of the total market by 2008. The three most significant markets, nevertheless, would still be responsible for the lion's share of DATs consumed. This is hardly surprising, given the fact that this trio represents some of the most heavily populated countries in Europe today.
In terms of market development and test utilities, the overall European market for DOA testing is still considered to be approx 10 yr behind the US market. It is believed that whereas certain European markets have been slow to accept DAT, others have shown much more enthusiasm (3,4). Data indicate that there is a noticeable discrepancy in the level of test adoption in Europe in the form of a North-South divide, as illustrated in Fig. 1. Thus, cultural differences may be one of the factors responsible for holding back the development of the European DAT market (4). Spain and France are the countries currently exhibiting the highest level of resistance to drug testing. In Spain, drug testing is viewed with caution, in both health care and non-health care environments (4). Owing to the lack of legislation and national guidelines, doctors in Spain are reluctant to carry out a DAT, unless obligatory, for fear of being implicated in legal proceedings. In France, people involved in road accidents may be requested to provide a urine and/or blood sample under la loi Gayssot. Nevertheless, comprehensive roadside testing in France, as well as Spain, has yet to be fully approved. Furthermore, random screening of prisoners in France is still prohibited. As a result, the level of testing carried out in France continues to be extremely low.
In terms of rate of DAT usage, Germany, Italy, the Benelux region, and Denmark were ranked as medium-range users (Fig. 1). Whereas Belgium has
adopted a zero-tolerance policy, cracking down on drug abuse at all levels, the two other Benelux regions, along with Denmark, have yet to authorize roadside testing. In Luxembourg and the Netherlands, a stricter enforcement of existing laws has been suggested as an alternative to testing people suspected of driving under the influence of drugs (5). Germany and Italy have traditionally been classified as high-volume consumers of diagnostic assays. This trend, however, does not apply to drug testing. In these two countries, workplace drug testing is prohibited by law. Further accounting for the low level of DAT usage, both Germany and Italy have recently experienced a reduction in healthcare spending, with Germany in particular suffering from a period of economic instability. Consequently, drug testing is now categorized as a low priority, especially in the health care sector. Although other consumers, such as the police, prisons, and the military, have expressed an interest in employing these tests to combat drug abuse, their use has been hindered by the current lack of regulatory guidelines.
In 2003, Scandinavian countries, with the exception of Denmark, were among the leading group of countries using high volumes of DATs within Europe (3,4). Similarly to Belgium, both Sweden and Finland strictly oppose drug abuse in their societies. In order to implement and ensure the smooth operation of their respective drug strategies in the long term, Norway, Finland, and Sweden have invested a combined total of approx $80 million to combat drug abuse. Consequently, over the next 5 yr, increasing volumes of DATs are likely to be employed in the Nordic regions. Criminal justice services and treatment centers, in particular, have been allocated substantial funds within the framework of the respective national drug policies.
On the total European level, the United Kingdom is currently the most advanced market. This is reflected in the requirement for mandatory testing of inmates in UK prisons and young persons' institutes, and by the increasing practice of workplace testing. Although the UK is widely considered to be the leading country in western Europe concerned with workplace drug testing (WPDT), more recent research conducted by Market & opinion Research International (MORI) (5) in 2003 indicated that only approx 4% of UK companies were testing their present and future staff for substance abuse. On this issue, there are several pieces of legislation supporting workplace testing, but over all, WPDT is still poorly understood in Europe. The Health and Safety at Work Act and the Transport and Works Act mandate that being under the influence of DOA represents a criminal offense, not only for the employees but also for employers who knowingly allow staff members to perform under the influence.
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