Why is the TSA confiscating people’s medications?

Nitroglycerin
Several stories have been circulating recently about people’s medications being confiscated by the TSA. In some cases, these are potentially lifesaving medications, such as nitroglycerin for heart patients or insulin for diabetics. 

We’ve written in the past about TSA screeners messing with people’s medicine and medical devices, such as the case of Savannah Barry, whose $10,000 insulin pump was ruined when the TSA insisted she go through the strip-search scanner, and the woman whose insulin pump was mistaken for a handgun, and Melinda Deaton, whose feeding tube was pawed, and Michelle Dunaj, a leukemia patient with various medical tubes, which medical tubes the TSA manhandled and whose saline solution bag was punctured, and the woman who was punished with a full-body grope because she objected to her Enbrel going through the x-ray machine, which the TSA’s own regulations state shouldn’t be put through the x-ray to begin with.

These are just a few examples. There are thousands more.

We even have the FDA telling passengers they have to notify the TSA about their private prescription drugs. Think about it: you have a condition for which you take medication — a condition that’s nobody else’s business — and you’re supposed to announce it to the TSA at the checkpoint? So that the expert clerks, with their immense knowledge of medical conditions and treatments, can decide whether or not you’re allowed to take your private, personal medication with you??

Those of our readers who also follow the TSA Blog (aka Propaganda Central) and the chat forum FlyerTalk know that there has been much discussion over the past several weeks about nitroglycerin pills, which the TSA has confiscated from travelers because some screeners believe they are explosive (no, I am not making this up).

TSA Press Secretary Ross Feinstein (whose moniker at FlyerTalk is “TSAPressSec”) has said that nitroglycerin pills are allowed to be carried on board.

But if you go to the TSA’s official website and type “nitroglycerin pills” into the search box called “When I Fly, Can I Bring My…?” on the front page, here’s what comes up:

Item Not Found.

Please check the spelling of the item searched and try your search again.

You might also try other terms that have a similar meaning. If you still cannot find your item, you may submit your request to TSA for consideration.

If you take out the word “pills” and just type “nitroglycerin,” you get the same result. I tried it in two different browsers, multiple times.

Here’s an entire search page called “Can I bring my…through the security checkpoint?” You’ll notice that it’s pretty useless.

Then again, you might suddenly find this, as I just did on my 5th or 6th attempt at a search:

Iced Tea Proves to be ‘Acidic’

www.tsa.gov/printpdf/1510

reading came back positive for nitroglycerin. The Long Beach Airport Safety Office and the Long Beach Police Department were notified and quickly …

Iced Tea Proves to be ‘Acidic’ | Transportation Security …

www.tsa.gov/press/releases/2009/08/06/iced-tea-proves-be-acidic

Iced Tea Proves to be ‘Acidic’ Download / Print Home; Contact Us; Site …

That’s right: iced tea.

If you manage to find the “Medically Necessary Liquids, Gels, and Aerosols” page, you’ll get several paragraphs’ worth of 3-ounce this and 3-ounce that, with all kinds of qualifications and exceptions (but of course, nitroglycerin tablets aren’t liquids, gels, or aerosols). Then if you find the “What to Expect If a Passenger Needs Medication” page, you learn that:

Passengers are allowed to bring medications in pill or other solid form through security screening checkpoints in unlimited amounts, as long as they are screened. TSA does not require passengers to have medications in prescription bottles, but states have individual laws regarding the labeling of prescription medication with which passengers need to comply.

So apparently you have to be up on all the laws of the states you might be passing through on your journey. If you have a connecting flight in another state, and if you’re rescreened, which sometimes happens, I guess you’re out of luck.

One of our readers found the following, but I can’t find it, and the link she sent just bounces me back to the search page:

TSA allows larger amounts of medically necessary liquids, gels, and aerosols in reasonable quantities for your trip, but you must declare them to security officers at the checkpoint for inspection.

We recommend, but do not require, that your medications be labeled to facilitate the security process.

Even if an item is generally permitted, it may be subject to additional screening or not allowed through the checkpoint if it triggers an alarm during the screening process, appears to have been tampered with, or poses other security concerns. The final decision rests with TSA on whether to allow any items on the plane.

Final decision on whether or not you’re allowed to take medically necessary prescriptions on plane with you rests with the TSA. But of course. What could possibly go wrong?

You’ll have to try this search for yourself, dear reader, to learn that the TSA is so screwed up it can’t even provide definitive information for travelers about whether or not they can take nitroglycerin medication with them on their trips. But it will tell you that you can take liquids, gels, and aerosols if you declare them.

For further reading on this subject from FlyerTalk, here are links that do work:

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/checkpoints-borders-policy-debate/1536964-week-tsa-history-starting-1-1-2014-a-6.html

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/checkpoints-borders-policy-debate/1606579-fda-warns-travelers-tell-tsa-about-any-prescription-drugs-they-have-4.html

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/23440827-post43.html

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/23442817-post51.html

  • The TSA are low life scum. And the rapescan machines are insane. This TSA is there to get the sheeple into the mode where they feel comfortable being herded like cattle.

  • Dolt

    That link to the Iced Tea article makes my brain explode. The TSA is no longer even trying to hide behind the facade of screening for weapons and explosives only. That is what they are limited to under an “administrative search”. However, in the article:

    It was determined that the bottles were full of a substance called purple haze – a type of LSD also known as “acid.”

    …. “It was just textbook,” said Charisse Still, TSA Training Coordinator at the airport. “Our officers did exactly what they were supposed to do to mitigate the threat.”

    “We’re very proud of our TSOs and our Supervisory TSOs. They are dynamic individuals and have some real talent,” said Federal Security Director Nancy Baggott. “I would definitely expect this type of performance.”

    If this is what the Training Coordinator is now training TSA to be doing now… then they are going well beyond just an administrative search and I believe a warrant should be needed and/or the ability to refuse a search for narcotics or anything else that the TSA is now actively seeking out with the cooperation of Law Enforcement Agencies.

  • Propaganda Central, aka the TSA Blog, has finally addressed the medications question. Not surprisingly, all it does is repeat bland talking points already available on the official TSA website. And as we’ve pointed out till we’re blue in the effing face, TSA clerks at the checkpoint disregard their own rules and make up new ones all the time. We have documented thousands of cases of this.

    I invite those of you who are allowed to comment at Propaganda Central and who don’t get censored to post comments on this latest puny effort (which your tax dollars are paying for; I’m sure Blogger Bob is getting at least 60,000 bucks a year to write this shit):

    http://blog.tsa.gov/2014/09/tsa-travel-tips-traveling-with.html

  • Anonymous Physician

    I’m a board certified physician. During the last ten years of observing TSA activity in many international airports as a passenger, I’ve certainly noted the differences between each locality. I attributed much of these variances to the control of the local-city-county authorities contracting the personnel to staff the TSA checkpoints versus when a state directly contracts with TSA.

    Setting aside the observation of contracting and employment practices, it is clear that many patients over the ten years have observed these TSA officers and agents doing things that are not medically recommended.

    Seizure of prescription drugs by a TSA agent is highly questionable. But, as a physician, I have seen or heard from patients where such occurred. I had some mothers who noted TSA forcing them to drink their own breast milk in order to “screen for explosives”. I sent letters to our local congressional offices to encourage a policy where breast feeding women were not subjugated to this abusive indignity.

    After all, if a dog can sniff out explosive residue, why wouldn’t we be doing this in US airports instead of treating every breast feeding mother carrying pumped milk as a potential terrorist?

    Ten years later, I have heard that TSA has adjusted their recommendations, but I was personally verbally abused by TSA officers at SFO two years ago. The action of the TSA Contractors were so bad that I sent complaints to the SFO airport administration who took action to investigate and discipline.

    TSA functions less like security and more like a giant waste of tax payer money. While I do not object to having high levels of security at airports, the effort to stop terrorists would be better served if we didn’t harm our own economy in the process. I can’t help but wonder how healthy US airlines, the travel and recreation sector, and hotels/rental car companies would be with improvements in our ability to freely move in the domestic market (continental US).

    I also wonder how many lives have been adversely affected by the existing programs over the past 14 years and the extent to which the economy has been harmed.

    Most of all, as a US citizen, TSA feels like our nation capitulated to the social engineering of those who sponsor terror. Our enemies want us to spend our resources fighting. Our enemies want us to change our economy to hamper our travel, our investment, and our business. There comes a time when the TSA becomes more of a damper on our economy than an assistance.

    If we have to spend 1 trillion dollars on sending armaments from the DOD to our local police forces, then has the TSA really screened the terrorist on our behalf?

    Why are we spending all these billions of dollars? Who are we screening? Ourselves? We already know that we’re not the terrorist. Screen the terrorist by pushing these screening points internationally and free us from this domestic “papers please” chase.

    • RonBonner

      I question the legality of a TSA employee taking possesion of someones prescribed medicine, especially certain federally controlled substances.

      • Daisiemae

        When I was issued a prescription for pain medication, the manager at my doctor’s office put me through an extensive procedure. I had to sign papers agreeing to abide by all the rules in their drug program.

        One of the rules was this: If my medication was lost or stolen, I was required to report this to the police. Otherwise, I could be prosecuted.

        So….if TSA confiscates controlled substance prescription medication, the patient MUST report the theft to the police.

        That’s my interpretation of the agreement I signed with my doctor’s office. And that is exactly what I would do.

        I’m sure my doctor’s office would require a police report in order to issue a prescription for replacement medication.

  • James D

    Is Viagra and Cialis allowed?

    • Susan Richart

      Search Results For:
      VIAGRA
      Item Not Found

      Search Results For:
      CIALIS
      Item Not Found

      Now if you search “prescription pills”, you find that they are apparently allowed as long as they fit in the overhead storage or under your seat. 🙂

      You may transport this item in carry-on baggage or in checked baggage. For items you wish to carry-on, you should check with the airline to ensure that the item will fit in the overhead bin or underneath the seat of the airplane.

      • James D

        Thank you Susan. That is funny Daisiemae. I needed a good laugh. THANKS!

        • Daisiemae

          You’re welcome. I try to do my part.

    • Daisiemae

      I imagine that TSA would actively encourage these medications. They make the pat downs so entertaining.

    • RonBonner

      That’s a hard one to handle.

  • jsteele98

    FDA is simply joining the regulation party. They looks around and say to themselves “Mommy, all the other agencies have traveler regs, we want one too.”

    The Federal Government … too bad it doesn’t belong the We The People any longer.

  • RonBonner

    I know this isn’t the proper thread but I don’t see any other way.

    TSA announced cuts to the BDO program.

    GSO is on the list to cut all BDO’s.

    http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/checkpoints-borders-policy-debate/1607129-bdo-restructuring-35-more-airports-cut-program.htm

    • Chris Bray

      “As always, AFGE will fight to make sure our BDOs are treated fairly, and we will continue to advocate to have the BDO program expanded.”

      It’s not a security program, it’s a jobs program.

    • Susan Richart

      Thanks, I was going to do the same. It seems as if, once again, John Pistole can’t/won’t acknowledge that this program is a waste. Rather than doing the honorable thing by admitting such, he seems to be eliminating the program cut by cut.

      Oh well, death by a thousand cuts is still death.

      • RonBonner

        All TSA BDO’s have been taking our tax dollars as salary for doing nothing. They shouldn’t just lose their jobs but also be prosecuted for theft.

  • Susan Richart

    And here’s another one: you can search for tylenol (liquid) and get a “response” using this link:

    http://apps.tsa.dhs.gov/mytsa/cib_home.aspx

    Search Results For:
    tylenol (liquid)

    Special Instructions

    You may carry liquids, gels and aerosols in your carry-on bags only if they adhere to the 3-1-1 rule: containers must be 3.4 ounces or less; stored in a 1 quart/liter zip-top bag; 1 zip-top bag per person, placed in the screening bin.

    Yada, yada, yada, it goes on.

    BUT if you use the TSA homepage and search for “tylenol liquid” this is the response you get:

    “Search Results For:

    TYLENOL LIQUID

    Item Not Found

    Please check the spelling of the item searched and try your search again.”

  • RonBonner

    I don’t know what people might be talking about this but it’s pretty clear to me that the TSA “Can I Take” tool never states that medical nitroglycerin pills are allowed.

    It doesn’t matter what Ross Feinstein says, what West Cooper says, or even what I say. The proof is provided by TSA with their “Can I Take” tool.

    I don’t know who TSA has assigned creating the responses to questions but saying

    “TSA allows larger amounts of medically necessary liquids, gels, and aerosols in reasonable quantities for your trip, but you must declare them to security officers at the checkpoint for inspection”

    never answers the basic question if Nitroglycerin Pills are allowed or not. Nitroglycerin pills are not LGA’s and that entire statement has no application to this question. It is a simple Yes or No response, something not difficult for any reasonably intelligent person and apparently something in very short supply at TSA.

    What I think is a bigger issue is that out of 65,000 government employees not one of them is willing to answer a simple question. If the answer is really yes then take the time to fix the TSA “Can I Take” tool and to train the screeners.

    Is that really asking to much of TSA?

    .

    • Susan Richart

      You are completely correct, RonBonner, the TSA does not say nitro pills are allowed. Ross Feinstein thinks the question has been addressed because apparently nitro pills have been added to this list:

      Search Results For:
      PILLS
      Select the correct item from the list below:

      heart pills
      nitro pills
      nitroglycerin pills
      thyroid pills
      asthma pills
      cholesterol pills
      vitamins (pills)
      pills in daily pill boxes
      pills not in original pill bottles
      sleeping pills
      prescription drugs pills
      ADHD pills
      diet pills
      medication (pills)
      Tylenol (pills)
      prescription pills in pill case
      heartburn medication (tablets or pills)
      prescription pills
      over the counter drug (pills)
      medicines (pills)
      vitamin pills
      vitamin pills in a bottle
      prescription medicines (pills)
      medically necessary pills in prescription bottles
      blood pressure pills
      birth control pills
      over-the-counter drugs (pills)
      allergy pills
      overhte counter medication (pills)
      pills not in original bottle
      cold medicine pills
      over the counter pills
      lactose milk pills
      RX pills
      stool softener (caplets or pills)
      OTC medicines (pills or tablets)

      It’s not just “nitroglycerin pills” that takes you to that non-answer “answer.” Search for RX Pills from the list above and you get the non-answer.

      But if you enter “prescription pills” as your query, you get this response:

      “You may transport this item in carry-on baggage or in checked baggage. For items you wish to carry-on, you should check with the airline to ensure that the item will fit in the overhead bin or underneath the seat of the airplane.”

      Of course, the usual blather about the TSA being able to deny anything at any time is appended to the above answer.

      However, this is again a non-answer because it pertains more to carry-on items than a bottle of pills.

      $8 billion a year and they can’t even tell you whether or not you can you.

    • Daisiemae

      Apparently, it is too much to ask. It’s completely beyond TSA’s capability.

  • Daisiemae

    Just more opportunities for bullies and predators to abuse the vulnerable members of our society.

  • Susan Richart

    This is just bizarre stuff. But, then again, it is the TSA so why am I surprised.

    I see what you mean about that link not working. I went to the TSA website home page and entered “heart pills” in the query box. I was taken to the page about liquids and gels.

    Then I copied and pasted the link that I found at the top of the “liquids and gels” page and, you’re right, I went right back to a search page.

    When I again entered “heart pills”, I went to the same page as I got the first time. HOWEVER, this page finally had a viable link:

    http://apps.tsa.dhs.gov/mytsa/cib_results.aspx?search=heart%20pills

    So, if you want to find some information to send to your elderly parents about traveling with medication, it seems to me that you have to go around Robin Hood’s barn to get either a viable link or a page that you can print out. But the page that you print out won’t have anything to do with heart pills, but rather liquids, gels and aerosols.