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FAA easing mental health barriers for pilots

Pilots who are taking an antidepressant will no longer have to undergo routine follow-up neuropsychological evaluations in order to continue flying, the FAA’s Office of Aerospace Medicine announced in May.
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As part of its efforts to ease mental health barriers for pilots, the agency also approved the use of another antidepressant medication, Wellbutrin SR or XL.

The FAA reviewed a decade’s worth of data before removing the requirement for routine follow-up neuropsychological evaluations. The FAA estimated that this change will help save pilots approximately $3,000 a year in evaluation costs.

The agency also updated its Guide for Aviation Medical Examiners to allow pilots to be treated with Bupropion, commonly known as Wellbutrin XL.

“AOPA supports the FAA’s continued evaluation of mental health treatments to remove potential barriers to flying and encourage pilots to seek help the help they need for their mental health,” said AOPA President Mark Baker.

Wellbutrin XL is an antidepressant prescribed to treat major depressive disorder and seasonal affective disorder. The agency said it is reviewing additional medications for possible approval.

The agency also announced that AMEs can upload supporting documentation directly to the FAA.

aopa.org/pilot/SSRI

Accepted medications

When you have been stable with no symptoms or side effects and on the same dose of medication for six months (this must be documented), you should meet with your HIMS AME to determine if it is appropriate to submit an initial SSRI special issuance packet for FAA review. The medication used must be one the following (single use only):

  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Citalopram (Celexa)
  • Escitalopram (Lexapro)
  • Bupropion (Wellbutrin) Extended Release (ER) or Sustained Release (SR)

If the applicant is on an SSRI that is not listed above, the examiner must advise that the medication is not acceptable for special issuance/special consideration.

faa.gov/ame_guide

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