FAA Changes Policy On Antidepressants For Pilots

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The FAA announced Friday that it will, on a case-by-case basis, consider the special issuance of a medical certificate to pilots using medication for depression and will offer forgiveness for some previously undisclosed conditions. The change will take effect April 5, and applies to pilots using Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, or Lexapro. Special issuance medical certification will be considered only for pilots who have been "satisfactorily treated on the medication for at least 12 months," according to the FAA. Pilots who can't show a history will be grounded for at least that period. The FAA's forgiveness is limited to a six-month window. Pilots who previously did not disclosed to the FAA a diagnosis of depression, or the use of the above listed antidepressants, will not see civil enforcement action from the FAA if they report their condition within that timeframe. From that group, those who "have a medical history of successful treatment" should be able to fly "within a few months." Prior to April 5, pilots suffering from mild to moderate depression were barred from all flying duties.

The agency's adjustment is motivated by a "need to change the culture and remove the stigma associated with depression," said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. He added, "I'm encouraging pilots who are suffering from depression, or using antidepressants, to report their medical condition to the FAA." The FAA's decision is consistent with recommendations from the Aerospace Medical Association, AOPA, ALPA and the ICAO.  Transport Canada, the Civil Aviation Authority of Australia, and the U.S. Army currently allow some pilots to fly while using certain antidepressant medications. "Pilots should be able to get the medical treatment they need so they can safely perform their duties," said Babbitt.

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