Germany’s Die Welt has reported that the German pilot who apparently deliberately crashed a commercial passenger plane had antidepressant drugs in his home, according to CNN. The US Federal Aviation Administration has banned US pilots from taking many SSRI antidepressants.
“Die Welt, a German newspaper, cited an unidentified senior investigator who said [co-pilot Andreas] Lubitz suffered from a severe ‘psychosomatic illness’ and German police seized prescription drugs that treat the condition,” stated CNN. “Lubitz suffered from a ‘severe subjective burnout syndrome’ and from severe depression, the source told Die Welt. The New York Times also reported that antidepressants were found during the search of his apartment. CNN has not been able to confirm the reports.”
The articles also mentioned that Lubitz apparently had been recently having unusual vision problems, which are a recognized potential side effect of antidepressants.
A US Federal Aviation Administration Accepted Medications list provided by the company Pilot Medical Solutions states that, “Single-use Anti-Depressants such as: Celexa (Citalopram Hydrobromide), Lexapro (Escitalopram Oxalate), Prozac (Fluoxetine Hydrochloride) or Zoloft (Sertraline Hydrochloride) are approved by the FAA on a case by case basis only. Approval is very difficult, and does not permit applicants to be approved by an AME or even the FAA in Oklahoma City. All other psychiatric medications, including other SSRI’s such as Luvox (Fluvoxamine), Paxil (Paroxetine), Viibryd (Vilazodone), are not acceptable to the FAA.”
The FAA’s website confirms that, “The FAA has determined that airmen requesting first, second, or third class medical certificates while being treated with one of four specific selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may be considered. The Authorization decision is made on a case by case basis.”
According to a 2011 presentation on the International Civil Aviation Organization website, the Convention on International Civil Aviation has developed a similar recommendation that pilots taking antidepressants should be deemed “unfit” to fly, except in specially evaluated cases.
In a 2010 article in the Huffington Post, MIA Blogger Peter Breggin lamented that the FAA had recently lifted its absolute ban on antidepressants and was instead providing a “Medication Guide to patients and their families that warns about dangerous drug-induced reactions including suicide, violence and a variety of unexpected negative behaviors.” Breggin warned that, “The FAA should reverse its ruling before it’s too late and hundreds of lives are lost when a pilot becomes impulsive, suicidal or violent–or just loses his sharpness–under the influence of antidepressant medication.”
Reports: Antidepressants found at home of co-pilot Andreas Lubitz (CNN, March 29, 2015)
FAA Accepted Medications (Pilot Medical Solutions, Inc website, Updated 2/9/15)
Recent changes to Annex 1 Medical Standards and Recommended Practices (International Civil Aviation Organization presentation)
Pilots Taking Antidepressants? The FAA Is Risking Our Lives (Huffington Post, May 5, 2010)