December 12, 2023

Warren, Schumer, Markey Urge FAA to Require Epinephrine Auto-Injectors in Airlines’ In-Flight Emergency Medical Kits

“Having an epinephrine auto-injector available is especially crucial in a setting like an airplane, where emergency medical personnel may not be present or immediately available.”

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) sent a letter to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator, Michael Whitaker, raising concern about the omission of epinephrine auto-injectors from current standing FAA regulation for in-flight emergency kits, and asking the agency to amend the regulation to require that these kits include epinephrine auto-injectors. 

Current FAA regulation requires that passenger flights carry a medical kit on board in the event of an emergency. However, epinephrine auto-injectors – which are often the first-and-best line of defense when someone experiences an anaphylactic allergic reaction – are not required to be included. In August, in a Boston Globe Op-Ed, Massachusetts resident Lindsey Ulin shared her own experience with unexpected anaphylactic shock during a flight, and how the absence of an epinephrine auto-injector on the plane put her life at serious risk.

“The glaring gap in FAA’s regulations disregards the widely-accepted guidance by medical professionals who stress the importance of epinephrine auto-injectors in treating anaphylaxis, and puts airline passengers at risk,” wrote the lawmakers.

In the letter, lawmakers noted that “numerous passengers have reported life-threatening emergencies” while in the air and have been forced to rely on fellow passengers who just happened to have epinephrine auto-injectors on hand. While these travelers were fortunate, the lawmakers argued that “we cannot continue to rely on good fortune to protect the 2.9 million passengers on every one of the 45,000 daily airline flights in the United States.” 

While the FAA has previously required a number of single dose ampules of epinephrine be available on flights, these typically are used in the event of a cardiac emergency and require the presence of a trained medical professional to “properly measure the correct dosage and administer the injection.” The lawmakers are urging the FAA to follow recommendations of the Aerospace Medical Association and require emergency medical kits on board to include epinephrine auto-injectors.

“We urge you to amend the current standing regulation to require that epinephrine auto-injectors be included in the emergency medical kit of every flight, as well as engage in regular review of medical kit requirements,” concluded the lawmakers. “We ask that you provide us with a staff-level briefing within 30 days on this matter, and we thank you for your consideration of this request to ensure the safety and health of passengers across our nation’s skies.”