The International Association of Forensic Toxicologists

39th Annual International Meeting


August 26 - 30, 2001
Prague, Czech Republic


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S. Svacina | M. Balikova | R. Wennig | H. Stead

Welcome address by Howard Stead,
Chief of the Scientific Section, UNDCP, Vienna


UNDCP aims to assist the global community in all aspects of drug control: law enforcement, demand reduction, alternative development, and legislation, and to help build a comprehensive infrastructure for drug control at the national level.

Within UNDCP, Scientific Section has the responsibility to provide the necessary scientific support for full implementation of all UNDCP programmes. That includes, amongst other things, providing support to establish drug testing laboratories, and to strengthen those that already exist. A key part of that is the International Quality Assurance Programme (IQAP).

The main aim of IQAP is to assist laboratory managers in monitoring, and improving, performance in their laboratories, and in achieving quality results. Through IQAP, and the distribution of test samples for analysis through the International Collaborative Exercises (ICE), UNDCP provides a means whereby laboratories can assess their performance, and take steps to improve. It also provides an opportunity to evaluate assistance already provided, and to identify where further assistance may be required in laboratories, and elsewhere (e.g. the administrative control system, legislation, etc.), to strengthen the overall drug control system.

With all the necessary support, laboratory performance is seen to improve. This opportunity is taken to thank all TIAFT members who have helped, and continue to help, in assuring the success of IQAP, either by providing test samples, by acting as reference laboratories, by actually participating in the programme, or by offering facilities for training analysts from laboratories where weaknesses in performance are identified.

Particularly on the issue of training, it is both interesting and important to note that training analysts may not alone be the answer to our problems. When we look at many poorly performing laboratories, and try to follow-up with them, we often find a lack of awareness of the need for quality results. Participation of those laboratories in IQAP is not primarily because they wish to improve their performance, but because the programme is free, because they feel obliged to do so, or because they believe that the UN logo is a sign of Acertification@. To address that problem, later this year we will bring together the heads of those laboratories whose performance is inadequate, to raise awareness of the basic concepts of quality assurance, and the need for proper laboratory management. We need to raise the quality of thinking about performance, as well as the quality of results.

Where IQAP however is particularly successful is in helping to build international, regional and national networks of laboratories, especially in the more scientifically remote regions of the world. UNDCP cannot provide assistance to all drug testing laboratories in one country, let alone throughout the world: laboratories must support each other. This is one of the reasons why the activities of TIAFT are so important.

Looking at laboratory performance in its widest possible context, UNDCP is faced with challenges as much political as scientific. Many participants will be faced with similar problems: for example, inter-ministerial rivalries, or lack of financial support from central authorities, together which isolate laboratories and weaken the scientific support that they can, and should, be providing to law enforcement, health, judicial, and other authorities at the national level.

UNDCP has a role to play in helping to resolve those difficulties. But, always, the main players must be the laboratories themselves, and you as representatives of those laboratories. Without your concerted efforts in helping to build bridges between laboratories, and with all the agencies involved in the whole infrastructure of drug control in your respective countries, the role of the laboratory will not be appreciated, and may not even be recognized. Only with such recognition will efforts to raise the quality of performance in the laboratory sector be meaningful.

Howard Stead
Chief of the Scientific Section, UNDCP, Vienna

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