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Shaheen Leads Call to Include Life-Saving Opioid Overdose Reversal Drug in Airline Emergency Medical Kits

** Drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for Americans under 50 and access to naloxone, a life-saving opioid overdose reversal drug, is essential to preventing those deaths **

(Washington, DC) – This week, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) led a letter with U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), requesting that the agency issue regulations requiring that Emergency Medical Kits (EMK) carried by passenger airlines include naloxone to treat drug overdoses in response to our nation’s growing opioid epidemic.

The Senators wrote, “We’ve heard stories from emergency responders across the country how indispensable this medication proves to be every day and how quick access to it can be the difference between life and death. Flight attendants and volunteer medical professionals serve as emergency responders on commercial passenger flights and they need access to the same reliable resources as firefighters and EMTS on the ground. Drug overdoses can easily occur midflight and are no less dangerous under those circumstances.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for Americans under 50 and access to naloxone, a life-saving opioid overdose reversal drug, is critical in preventing overdose deaths. Airline passengers are often hours away from emergency medical facilities and cannot seek other treatment until an emergency landing can be made.

The letter continues, “Regulations requiring the inclusion of naloxone in EMKs also provides an important protection for airline crews, who in the course of their duties, may inadvertently handle or come into contact with dangerous drugs that could cause an overdose. Some types of synthetic drugs can be so strong that just touching or breathing in could cause significant health issues. Access to naloxone will ensure that onboard emergency responders are not putting their own lives at risk when attempting to help passengers in need.”

The Senators closed their letter by requesting that the FAA require training for flight attendants to help recognize the signs and symptoms of an opioid overdose, so that they can provide better information to assisting physicians on the flight or over the phone through emergency medical consolation services. This will lead to faster administration of treatment, a factor that could very well determine a passenger’s survival.

Senator Shaheen, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the lead Democrat of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee, has led efforts in Congress to respond to the opioid crisis. As a result of her advocacy on the bipartisan Common Sense Caucus and her engagement during the writing of the government funding bill that was recently signed into law, Senator Shaheen secured $3.3 billion in additional resources to combat the opioid epidemic. This funding will go towards a number of key programs through the Department of Health and Human Services for treatment and prevention, the Department of Justice for law enforcement and grant resources, and other federal agencies to help communities impacted by the opioid epidemic. Senator Shaheen has also introduced bipartisan legislation with Senator Hassan that would change how federal agencies determine State Targeted Response Opioid Crisis Grant funding to prioritize states with the highest mortality rates in the nation from opioid overdoses. 

The letter can be read in full here.