Medicine degradation under extreme conditions in space is similar to Earth, study finds.
Medicines do not expire faster in space. The degradation in space does not differ from what is usually seen on Earth.
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Scientists have recently tested a number of drugs that are returned to Earth after 550 days of storage in the International Space Station. These drugs are the same as people use on Earth like sleeping pills, pain killers, antidiarrhoeal and alertness mediccations that are regularly supplied to the ISS and replaced with expired ones. But restocking may not be possible if spacecrafts are launched to more distant points.
Medicines on Earth degrade after a specific time, but the process gets even quicker if they are exposed to heat or light, oxygen and humidity.
Although the temperature and humidiy conditions on board the ISS are similar to Earth, scientists wanted to find out whether exposure to microgravity or higher radiation levels has some adverse effects on medicines. They measured the quantity of active ingredients and degradation products in the drugs.
“Nine medicines were analyzed for active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) and degradant amounts; results were compared to 2012 United States Pharmacopeia (USP) requirements.”
USP guidelines provide clear requirements of the quantity of active ingredients and limits of degradation products in a drug which helps scientists determine whether the drug works successfully after being stocked in the space station.
No unusual degradation products were identified in any of the medicines after lengthy storage under extreme conditions in space.
“One medication met USP requirements five months after its expiration date. Four on nine drugs were still viable up to eight months after officially expiring. Another three medications met USP guidelines when they were tested three months before their expiry date. A dietary supplement/sleeping aid did not meet USP requirements eleven months after it had expired.” Study reports.
The findings are based on measurements made at 1 time point and for a handful of medicines. They will help planning long term exploration missions such as missions to Mars.
But the study also suggests that further research with appropriate ground control and multiple time points is necessary for getting more convincing evidence.
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“Only analysis of flight-aged samples compared to appropriately matched ground controls will permit determination of the spaceflight environment on medication stability.” Study concludes.