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Frequently Asked Questions—Medications

Medications

Q. Can I fly while using any antidepressants?

A. The FAA now allows the use of four specific antidepressant medications under a policy change in April, 2010. The policy now allows special issuance consideration for only four medications and for a specific diagnosis of major depressive disorder.  The use of any other antidepressants is still considered disqualifying under existing FAA medical certification policy.

Q. I was taking antidepressants several years ago, but I’m not taking them currently. Can I get my medical back?

A. The FAA medical application asks if you “currently” use any medications. If you have a past history of depression or any other condition that was treated with an antidepressant, and you have been off medications for at least ninety days, reissuance of a medical certificate is certainly possible. You will need to have a status report from your treating doctor summarizing your condition, how it was treated, how long it was treated, the date medicine was discontinued, and your current status. If the symptoms have not recurred and you remain medication-free, the FAA will probably be able to issue you a medical certificate.

Q: I am very interested in learning to fly but I have diabetes. Is it still possible for me to obtain my pilot certificate?

A: If you have diabetes mellitus controlled by diet alone, you are considered to meet the medical standards and are eligible for medical certification under the regulations. However, you will need to have a current evaluation available at the time of your FAA physical exam. You’ll need a status report from your doctor and a current report of normal hemoglobin A1C to document your control. If the report is normal, the aviation medical examiner may issue your medical certificate.

If you take oral medication, the AME cannot issue your certificate in the office and will defer the application to the FAA for approval. You’ll need a current diabetes evaluation at the time of your FAA physical exam. Once you’re approved, the FAA may grant you a six-year authorization that allows your aviation medical examiner to reissue your subsequent medical certificates on an annual basis.

Q: Is there some place I can find a list of medications that are acceptable to the FAA for flying?

A: FAR’s 91.17 and 61.53 briefly address the use of medications while flying. AOPA maintains a list of commonly prescribed medications that are acceptable to the FAA.

Q: I’m just getting ready to start my flight training and haven’t gotten my medical yet. I’m a bit worried because I take a medication for hypertension. How do I know if the FAA will accept the medication that I am on?

A: With very few exceptions, the FAA allows any of the FDA-approved anti-hypertension agents, including diuretics, angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, alpha-adrenergic blocking agents, beta-adrenergic blocking agents, calcium channel blocking agents, direct vasodilators, or combinations of these agents. AOPA provides a list of most FAA-accepted medications that you may want to check. In addition, AOPA has a number of medical subject reports on various medical conditions, including hypertension that provides important medical information for pilots. Finally, before you go to your aviation medical examiner (AME), fill out AOPA’s Turbo Medical. This web-based, interactive tool will help you prepare to obtain your medical certificate by providing links to informative information based on your responses to the medical questionnaire.

Updated October 28, 2009