Medical journalists in the mass media play a key role in health information dissemination and risk/benefit education. Public education on the rational use of various health technologies, e.g. pharmaceuticals, is increasingly important as part of ongoing global health sector reforms. In a survey of 110 Swedish medical journalists (55% response rate) about medicinal drugs, risk perceptions and professional concerns, fact-giving, stimulating, and critical functions were rated as the most important journalist role attributes, followed by advocacy of patient interests and of public health goals. Major perceived problems were self-imposed professional demands, job stress, knowledge and time constraints, and selection and contextualization of news material. In terms of medicinal drugs, attitudes were strongly in favor of a unique drug information role for the media and critical of physician prescribing and information-giving. Views on the appropriateness of specific ethical rules or guidelines for medical journalists were sharply divided. The results offer some promise for increased alliance-building between public health and the mass media.
Will it take a series of drug-related accidents that have already occurred in the USA before workplace drug testing (WDT) becomes accepted in Europe as a preventive measure? Currently, the development of WDT in most European countries lags some 10-15 years behind that in the USA. Labour authorities in Europe now ought to take initiatives to demand a mandatory programme for accrediting drug analytical laboratories for WDT. Companies should realise that illicit drug use is no longer only a problem at street corners, and that having a testing system in place is important, not just for public health, but also for their reputations as responsible societal actors. Improved networking among police and regulatory authorities is required to keep pace with the rapid appearance and dissemination of new substances of abuse. European research collaboration, including the newly formed European Workplace Drug Testing Group, is needed to assess the impact of drug-testing policies on accidents and other outcome variables, and thereby to convince the general public and politicians that drug testing is beneficial and necessary. A 1993-1994 survey of quality analysis in some 200 European laboratories reported from Institut Municipal d'Investigació Medica (IMIM), Spain, showed good agreement between nominal and found concentrations but that only 10% of the laboratories could both screen, identify and quantify samples. Experiences from Italy show that proficiency testing schemes lead to improved accuracy of results. These were some major conclusions of the First European Symposium on Drug Testing held at Huddinge University Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden, 30 March to 1 April 1998, organised by Karolinska Institute, with participants from 22 countries.