Toxicology laboratory finally begins operation

Despite the plan to establish a the toxicology laboratory for the last 10 years, the laboratory finally sees the light of day from January this year

In what comes as a relief to ascertain from natural death to drug overdose, the much-awaited forensic toxicology laboratory has finally become functional at the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) in Thimphu.

The JDWNRH’s forensic department got its first toxicology laboratory last year, but it was not into operation until this January.

Meanwhile, toxicology is the study of poisonous chemicals and drugs and how a person or other organism reacts to them. And the toxicology laboratory can conduct qualitative tests for narcotic drugs, pesticides and environmental contaminants, alcohols and aconite, petroleum products and remnants of arsons.

The Head of the Forensic Department of JDWNRH, Dr. Norbu said, “Ever since the laboratory started operating many cases of urine screening were conducted, while only one case of screening along with confirmatory test for a blood test was done which was sent from Paro to determine poison content.”

He added that the confirmatory test is done only when they are not able to analyze the result through urine and blood.

Of the many agencies, Dr. Norbu said the police department would benefit the most in order to solve criminal cases and also drug related cases which are on the rise.

He added that the laboratory does not have the facility to carry out DNA test and that they still need to send the samples to Sri Lanka, while for toxicology related cases it can be now done in the laboratory instead of sending them to India.

Meanwhile, the urgency to have a toxicology laboratory was felt after hospitals across the country had to deal with cases related to food poisoning, drug abuse and pesticides.

A total of Nu10mn was invested in procuring machines as the laboratory was already established earlier.

Meanwhile, in absence of the toxicology laboratory, samples were sent outside Bhutan for testing and took more than half a year to get the results. Not only sending the samples were expensive, but also time consuming.

“Now with the laboratory in the country, we can not only have immediate results but also save money,” Dr. Norbu said.

Before the laboratory, the forensic department used the rapid testing kit supplied by the Bhutan Narcotics Control Agency (BNCA) to test drugs through urine.

Meanwhile, the budget for the facilities of the forensic laboratory was approved in the 11th Plan.

Chencho Dema from Thimphu