Anti-Depressants and Flying

It seems like anti-depressants (Prozac, Paxil, Elavil, etc.) have been around for ages and they are being presecribed for almost anything from true depression to itchy toes. There are many different prescriptions issued by practitioners for stress, premenstrual tension, anti-smoking programs, anxiety, worries, etc. The vast majority of these medications are taken without any significant side effects.

The FAA looks at medications in two aspects: (1) the REASON WHY they are prescribed, and (2) the potential SIDE EFFECTS. Specifically with this type of medication, the effects on cognition, memory, alertness, i.e., side effects that would impair flight safety, to name a few.

Because of the wide spread use of antidepressants and the documented safety of most of them, the medical flying world has done a huge amount of research on their use and participation in flight. Under strictly controlled studies, aviation personnel have taken Zoloft™ or Welbutrin™ with no apparent reduction in cognitive abilities or drowsiness. 

Four of the commonly used antidepressants are approvable. Those are Paxil, Celexa, Zoloft, and Lexapro. Of course, these approvals have lots of "strings" attached including the requirement for regular evaluations and reports, on a 6 to 12 month interval, with the prescribing psychiatrist and approval by the FAA Chief Psychiatrist. The useage will be considered after 12 months of stable use and will require at least annual psychiatric visits and reports. The AME must be HIMS III certified (Dr. Terrell is) and will follow on the same plan as the HIMS III program.

Nov 12, 2016