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.
"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," said SSRI expert, Dr Peter Breggin, in an April 19, 2010 Huffington Post commentary.
The Citizens Commission on Human Rights is also calling on the FAA to rethink allowing pilots to take SSRI in light of a new report issued last month by the National Transportation Safety Board, on a February 1, 2008 plane crash in North Carolina, by a crazy acting pilot on Zoloft, that killed all six persons on board
The report said the pilot failed to maintain control of the plane during instrument flying conditions and "deliberately descended below the minimum descent altitude." The plane stalled and crashed while circling after an aborted landing.
"Review of the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) audio revealed that the pilot had displayed some non-professional behavior before initiating the approach," the NTSB reported.
The CVR recorded the pilot singing: "Save my life I'm going down for the last time," before beginning a commentary in which he told passengers: "If anybody back there believes in the good Lord, I believe now would be a good time to hit your knees."
A review of medical records documented that "from December 4, 2006 through December 31, 2007, the pilot had filled 6 prescriptions for 30 tablets of 50 mg sertraline (Zoloft)," the report said.
The records indicated that he had been treated previously with two other antidepressant medications for "anxiety and depression" and a history of "impatience" and "compulsiveness," the NTSB noted.
An investigation of another plane crash, resulting in two fatalities in Kingsport, Tennessee, in August 2003, found Zoloft in the blood and liver of a private flight instructor, according to an accident report by the NTSB.
In the policy statement published in the Federal Register, the FAA seems to justify the use of these drugs via the fully debunked "chemical imbalance in the brain" theory when writing: "All these medications are SSRIs, antidepressants that help restore the balance of serotonin, a naturally occurring chemical substance found in the brain."
"Increasingly accepted and prevalently used, these four antidepressants may be used safely in appropriate cases with proper oversight and have fewer side effects than previous generations of antidepressants," the FAA wrote, with no citation to any scientific paper to back up this assertion.
In fact, the current labels on SSRIs warn that "anxiety, agitation, panic attacks, insomnia, irritability, hostility, aggressiveness, impulsivity, akathisia (psychomotor restlessness), hypomania, and mania, have been reported in adult and pediatric patients treated for major depressive disorder as well as for other indications, both psychiatric and nonpsychiatric."
"Even when not severe, these reactions impair judgment and increase the likelihood of accidents and violence," according to Dr Breggin.
CCHR has set up a great website with a one-of-a-kind search engine that allows the public and officials to access the database on side effects reported to the FDA on SSRIs, and every other psychiatric drug. The site also has a search engine to access all the International warnings and studies on psychiatric drugs which have been summarized so they are easy to understand, even to a lay person
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