The FAA seems to be tightening the screws somewhat on their medication usage policy. Although overall, the feds are fairly generous about medications usage compared to many other countries, policy making appears to be more centralized to FAA Headquarters than in the past. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is hampering our ability to receive timely updates on changes to medications. As you may know from previous updates, the FAA doesn’t make available to the flying public a “list” of acceptable medications.
However, through our frequent contact with the FAA, AOPA is able to maintain a fairly comprehensive database of medications that we update as we are made aware of changes. This new procedure is hindering somewhat our ability to get those updates as soon as possible after the changes are made, so we have some work to do with the FAA to reopen that communication. If you have an interest in a particular medication that isn’t included in the database, give us a call at 800-872-2672 so we can research it and get you an answer.
I do have an update for you on a promising new drug that is already being prescribed for people with a particular type of heart arrhythmia called atrial fibrillation. For many years, Coumadin (warfarin), a blood thinner, has been the drug of choice to treat many types of conditions including mechanical heart valve replacement, pulmonary embolus (blood clots in the lung), as well as atrial fibrillation. Pradaxa (dabigatran) is a promising new anticoagulant that poses a more favorable adverse effect profile than Coumadin. The drug was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in October 2010, and per FAA policy, it will be monitored for one year before being considered for use by pilots. The data on this drug looks good, so we hope to see the medication get the go-ahead later this year.
Also, there was some confusion about two similar inhaler medications used for pulmonary conditions, including bronchial asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The FAA allows the use of Atrovent (ipratropium bromide) but didn’t allow Combivent, even though it contains the same ingredient, ipratropium bromide, and is otherwise a very similar medication. We have that sorted out now, and both those medications are allowed, provided the underlying condition has been evaluated and found not to be disqualifying.
March 10, 2011