We have all heard the various aviation alphabet groups touting the passage of the law by Congress that paves the way for most general aviation pilots to continue flying without receiving a Third Class Medical certificate. While Congress passed the law (as part of the FAA authorization extension) the FAA has yet to publish the Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) that will put the medical exemption into operation. Congress has given the FAA one year to accomplish this or pilots will be able to fly as if a regulation was in place. The FAA has said that they will have something published in 180 day so look for an NPRM early in 2017.
There are still many details to be determined concerning the implementation of the new exemption. One of things that they will probably be considering is pilot use of prescription medications. We as pilots have always had restrictions on the types and doses of various medications that we are permitted to use. It is not unusual for a medication to affect an individual in different ways whether the individual is at sea level or at altitude.
The FAA does not publish a list of approved medications for pilots but they do provide guidance to medical examiners that we can read and another page called Do Not Issue/Do Not Fly that lists specific disqualifying medications. When the Third Class Medical Exemption rule goes into effect it will be up to us as pilots to monitor our prescriptions and understand the consequences of taking various medications. 14 CFR 61.53 and 91.17 are the rules that currently govern flying while medically impaired or taking medications.
AOPA also has a database of medications approved or disapproved for pilot use by the FAA that they have compiled based upon the information that they receive from AOPA members as they have gone through the FAA medical certification process (You must be logged into your AOPA account).
Pilots have always self-certified their fitness to fly once their medical certificate had been issued. The FAA medical exam is a one-day look at a pilot’s health. After the exam is completed and the pilot walks out of the medical examiner’s office it is up to the pilot to determine if he or she is fit to fly. The Third Class Medical exemption will place a little more responsibility on the pilot to learn about and comply with acceptable medications while flying.