Southwest Airlines has become the latest US-based commercial airline to announce that it will carry naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal drug, as part of its in-flight emergency medical kits. Southwest now joins United, Alaska, Delta, and American Airlines in carrying naloxone on board its flights for cabin crew to use in an emergency.
The move follows US federal legislation introduced in May 2023 that requires all airlines to carry opioid overdose medication aboard their aircraft fleets. Data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows more than 109,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2022, the majority of which were related to opioid abuse.
Naloxone is used to rapidly reverse an opioid overdose. It can be administered either through a nasal spray or injection, but it would not affect someone who does not have opioids in their system, should it be used in error.
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Southwest Airlines is currently enhancing its onboard emergency medical kits to go beyond current FAA requirements, according to a Southwest statement. The new kits being installed across its fleet throughout 2024 feature an auto-injector dosage of epinephrine (often referred to as ‘epi-pens’), as well as doses of naloxone nasal spray and ondansetron – a nausea prevention drug.
Southwest’s emergency medical kits also include a stethoscope specially designed for loud environments, an electronic blood pressure cuff, a pulse oximeter, and a glucometer. The first of the new medical kits was installed in December 2023 and the roll-out is due to continue throughout 2024.
“Transport Workers Union Local 556 is the union that represents the 21,000 plus flight attendants at Southwest Airlines,” said the Union’s spokesperson Michael Massoni, who has been a flight attendant for 40 years. “Our Union was pivotal in lobbying to have this addition to our emergency medical kits.”
“There are only certain parts of the kit that we’re allowed to use without medical guidance of some sort. Naxalone is one of those items that we would enlist after we first try to enlist the help of a medical professional onboard the aircraft. And if all else fails and we cannot secure one of those, then we could get permission to utilize that through what we call Stat MD, which is a medical service provider that’s available to us on the aircraft via radio or SatCom links,” Massoni added.
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