We live in the era of space exploration and there are plenty of places in this Universe we have yet to visit. Ever since the International Space Station (ISS) has started orbiting the Earth, people have all sorts of curiosities about experiments in space, the most recent one dealing with the way medicine’s viability is altered up there.
- Researcher Virginia Wotring sent medicine to ISS to measure their viability in space conditions
- Her study was published in the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS) journal
- The study suggests no significant difference in expiration dates in microgravity and increased radiation
A new study is here to kill the curiosity, suggesting that medicines do not have a faster expiration date in space, and that it doesn’t seem to present significant differences in degradation, compared to what is we know of on Earth.
There are various factors that can contribute to the process of degradation in medications, such as exposure to humidity, oxygen, and light. Even though the humidity and temperatures inside the ISS are set to be within normal ranges for drug storage, researchers were curious what would happen when other factors, such as increased radiation and microgravity, have a role to play.
In order to assess deterioration outcomes, researcher Virginia Wotring from Baylor College of Medicine launched a pilot-scale study based on the reaction of drugs sent to space. She collected FDA-approved medicine and had them repackaged by Johnson Space Center (JSC) Pharmacy so as to adhere to space mission requirements.
Nine medication types went through this process, including an alertness drug, an antihistamine, an antidiarrheal, a decongestant, two sleeping pills, and three painkillers. The medications travelled a long while before returning to JSC for analysis.
They were transported to the ISS on board of Russia’s Progress spacecraft – where they spent 550 days in the research complex – and then returned back to Earth with the Dragon (SpaceX) capsule. A boat ride and a flight made sure the drug samples reached Houston, Texas; it took the pills roughly 58 hours to travel from capsule’s landing location to the final destination.
In order to detect and measure degradation, researchers analyzed the samples using the procedures specified in the 2012 United States Pharmacopeia (USP). Results showed most of the drugs did not react any differently in the new conditions, following the same expiration process.
The USP stipulations were met even months after the medicines’ official expiration date – from three to eleven months past the deadline. The researchers concluded they could not find “noteworthy degradation products in all of the tests.”
Image Source: NASA