Some of the pharmaceuticals intended to treat minor illnesses of astronauts in space may have shorter shelf-life than they do on Earth, finds a new study.
Pharmaceuticals used on space flights are packed and dispensed in special flight-certified containers and stored in compact flight kits. They may be exposed to the unique environ-mental factors of space missions such as radiation and excessive vibration in addition to variations in temperature and humidity.
Scientists at the Johnson Space Centre compared physical and chemical changes in 35 formulations contained in identical pharmaceutical kits stowed on the International Space Station (ISS) and on Earth.
They found that a higher percentage of the medications from each flight kit had a lower active pharmaceutical content than the controls on the ground. They also saw no variation in the temperature or humidity levels between Earth and in space.
Exposure to the chronic low dose of ionizing radi-ation as well as repackaging of solid medications may be contributing factors for pharmaceutical stability in space, scientists suggest.
“It is important to characterize space-specific degradation products and toxicity limits using ground-based analogue environments of space that include proton and heavy ion radiation, vibration and multiple gravity conditions, scientists conclude. This information can facilitate research for the development of space-hardy pharmaceuticals and packaging technologies.