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Lifesaving drugs could be missing on commercial flights

Three airplanes docked at airport terminals
Photo: Michael H/Getty Images

It's illegal for U.S. airlines to take off without a kit of lifesaving drugs on board, but the Federal Aviation Administration has been handing out exemptions because some of those drugs are facing shortages, the New York Times reports.

The big picture: Domestic and international flights must carry drugs for severe allergic reactions, cardiac arrest, irregular heart rhythm, slow heart rates and low blood sugar. In 2016, more than 50 airlines were granted 4-year exemptions from the requirement to carry all 5 drugs in the medical kit.

  • Narrower exemptions are more common.
  • Health officials are especially concerned about epinephrine or adrenaline, which can be lifesavers for the tens of millions of people with food allergies.

Yes, but: Fainting, near-fainting and gastrointestinal problems are more common in flight than other emergencies, the Times reports.