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National forces approve North East technology

Friday 11 January 2013 5:00

Medical and safety technology firm Draeger has received the go-ahead for its drug detection kit to be used by police forces across the UK.

The Northumberland business has had its cannabis detection technology approved for use by the Home Office following rigorous testing from the department’s centre for applied science and technology, CAST.

The Dräger DrugTest 5000 can be used in police stations to detect cannabis via a simple saliva test rather than having to call a doctor in to take blood.

According to Draeger, the approval could ultimately be hugely lucrative for the firm given that there are 400 police custody facilities across the UK, representing in excess of £1m in potential business.

But, as a company spokesperson explained, the corporate market could be significantly greater. "By far the most lucrative market is the corporate one as many companies test their staff for drugs and to have Home Office approved kit is clearly the most desirable. This potential market could run into [several] millions [of pounds]," she said.

Further developments are now being made by Draeger to detect other drugs which could impair drivers.

The Home Office approval comes 45 years after the Northumberland firm became the first company in the UK to get type approval on a breathalyser - the Alcotest 80 tube in 1967.

Mark Burrup, regional focus group manager diagnostics, at Draeger Safety UK, said: “The rigorous type approval process has confirmed that our device is accurate, reliable and robust.

“We have experience working with police forces across the UK and on a global scale. Therefore, we understood the need to develop a product that would be easy to use, reliable and could work in real time, ultimately supporting police officers in their role in this increasingly important area.”

The testing kits are being introduced under a wider crackdown, which will see drug driving become a specific offence. Offenders will face up to six months in jail and a fine of up to £5,000 as well as an automatic driving ban of at least 12 months.

A similar version of the Dräger DrugTest 5000 is already used by German police forces to identify most known illegal drugs such as amphetamines, opioids, cocaine, cannabis and drugs in the ecstasy group.