The SSRI antidepressant makers are desperate to find new customers, so they recently have been focusing on capturing groups for which the drugs were usually considered off limits. The latest marketing coup managed to open up sales to roughly 614,000 American pilots. Under a new policy announced on April 5, 2010, pilots diagnosed with depression can seek permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to take one of four SSRIs, including Eli Lilly’s Prozac, Pfizer’s Zoloft, and Forest Laboratories’ Celexa and Lexapro.
Ken Kramer, a researcher with the Citizens Commission on Human Rights of Florida, says the numbers underestimate the extent of the problem, because medical examiners do not track deaths attributed to antipsychotic drugs or to antidepressants, both of which carry black-box or black-label warnings. The warnings on antidepressants, required by the Food and Drug Administration, state that the drugs increase the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in children, adolescents and young adults up to age 24. (Antidepressants include Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft, Effexor, Lexapro and Celexa.)
A few years ago I was hired by the FAA to defend the agency against a suit brought by a pilot who wanted to fly while taking a prescription antidepressant. I helped the FAA formulate its defense of the agency’s ban on pilots using antidepressants and, as a result, the ban remained in effect. Pilots remained unable to fly while taking antidepressants, including the newer ones such as Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa, Lexapro and Effexor. How times have changed.
The FDA has been approving psychotropic drugs, heart medications, birth control pills et al, with horrendous track records and mortal consequences since its inception. Some of those drugs have been taken off the market, but most like antidepressants are still available even though it is widely known they depress patients. Now we have the latest US government agency the FAA, which will now allow pilots to medicate and fly.
On February 24, 2010 the Veterans’ Affairs Committee of the U. S. House of Representatives chaired by Bob Filner (D-CA) held hearings on “Exploring the Relationship Between Medication and Veteran Suicide.” Military suicides have risen rapidly in recent years at the same time that the prescription of antidepressants and other psychiatric drugs has escalated. The hearing focused on the dangers of the newer antidepressants like Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa, Lexapro, Cymbalta, and Effexor.