The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is considering a proposal that would require commercial airlines to carry a supply of the overdose-reversing drug naloxone on passenger aircraft. Democratic Rep. Jim Langevin of Rhode Island urged FAA Administrator Steve Dickson in a letter to implement the rule after reports that a passenger died of an opioid overdose on a flight from Boston to Los Angeles in July.

“I think the airlines need to be prepared for any type of emergency,” Langevin said of the proposal.

“As opioid overdoses continue to claim thousands of lives each year, we must ensure access to life-saving treatments both on the ground and in the air,” said Langevin in a press release. “Despite incidents of airline passengers suffering opioid-induced overdoses, drugs like naloxone are not currently required on board passenger aircraft. I am pleased the FAA shares my concerns on this issue and is working to include overdose reversal drugs in emergency medical kits on board airlines going forward.”

FAA Review of Airplane Medical Kits Underway

The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 required the FAA to evaluate modifications to the equipment required for emergency medical kits carried on commercial aircraft. As part of the review, the FAA requested the Aerospace Medical Association (AsMA) to study current requirements. AsMA recommended that medical kits be updated to include opioid overdose reversal drugs, and the FAA Office of Aerospace Medicine has agreed with that finding.

Dickson said in a letter replying to Langevin that the agency was considering how to best implement the recommendation that naloxone being included in the emergency medical kits carried aboard passenger airliners. Before issuing a new rule, the FAA will study the cost and other impacts of a requirement to carry naloxone on air carriers, including training aircraft employees on the use of the overdose reversal kits in an emergency situation.

Flight Attendants Support Proposed Rule

The proposed rule requiring air carriers to include a supply of naloxone in emergency medical kits is supported by the union representing flight attendants. Sara Nelson, the president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, applauded federal regulators for pursuing the matter.

“We’re thrilled the FAA has agreed that responding to opioid overdoses with life-saving medication, like naloxone, is essential and should be included in emergency medical kits,” said Nelson. “This issue is a priority for AFA, as passenger medical emergencies have and will continue to include opioid overdoses. We look forward to working with the FAA to get this implemented as soon as possible.”

Since 1999, more than 400,000 people have died of an opioid-related overdose in the United States, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2017, more than two-thirds of the nation’s 70,200 drug overdose deaths involved an opioid.

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