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FAA Ends Ban of Pilots on Antidepressants

EAA Webinar to discuss new policy on April 12

April 2, 2010 — The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced Friday it is changing its longstanding ban on use of anti-depressants by pilots. Beginning April 5 the FAA will consider the special issuance of a medical certificate to pilots who are taking medication for mild to moderate depression, conditions that now bar them from all flying duties.

On a case-by-case basis beginning April 5, pilots who take one of four antidepressant medications – Fluoxetine (Prozac), Sertraline (Zoloft), Citalopram (Celexa), or Escitalopram (Lexapro) – will be allowed to fly if they have been satisfactorily treated on the medication for at least 12 months. The FAA will not take civil enforcement action against pilots who take advantage of a six-month opportunity to share any previously non-disclosed diagnosis of depression or the use of these antidepressants.

Dr. Jack Hastings, chairman of the EAA Aeromedical Advisory Council, has been actively involved in studying this issue and an advocate for this action.

 “I think it’s a wonderful development because it allows pilots who are suffering from depression to take a medication that has been proven safe and to continue to function in their careers.” Hastings said. “I would rather have a pilot flying on medication and feeling good rather than not taking medication and being depressed so he can continue to fly.”

EAA Aeromedical Advisory Council member Dr. Greg Pinnell will present an EAA Webinar, Flying With Depression-The New FAA Program, on Monday, April 12, to discuss the new policy.

Hastings says that the new program is modeled after the Human Intervention and Motivation Study (HIMS) program that was established 40 years ago, which has been highly effective for the assessment, treatment, and medical certification of pilots who need help with alcohol and drug issues.
“I’m encouraging pilots who are suffering from depression or using antidepressants to report their medical condition to the FAA,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. “We need to change the culture and remove the stigma associated with depression. Pilots should be able to get the medical treatment they need so they can safely perform their duties.”

The FAA’s policy is consistent with recommendations from EAA, Aerospace Medical Association, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Air Line Pilots Association and the International Civil Aviation Organization. The Civil Aviation Authority of Australia, Transport Canada and the U.S Army already allow some pilots to fly using antidepressant medications.

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