Medicines don’t degrade faster in space than they do on Earth, a new study finds.
Researchers analyzed nine medications that were stocked on the International Space Station for 550 days and returned unused to Earth, where they were kept under controlled conditions for three to five months.
The medications included pain relievers, sleeping aids, antihistamines/decongestants, an anti-diarrheal and an alertness drug.
The researchers assessed whether the active ingredients and the amount of degradation in the medications met United States Pharmacopeia (USP) guidelines for viability.
One medication met the USP standards five months after its expiration date, four met the standards up to eight months after their expiration dates, and three met the standards when tested three months before their expiration dates. A dietary supplement/sleeping aid did not meet the standards when tested 11 months after its expiration date.
No unusual degradation was found in any of the medications, according to the study published online Nov. 6 in the AAPS Journal.
Until now, there has been little information about how long periods of time in space affect medications.
While the International Space Station is regularly resupplied with medications, this may not be possible on long missions to more distant locations in space, said study leader Virginia Wotring. She’s with the Center for Space Medicine and Department of Pharmacology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
Researchers said further studies in this area are necessary before planning long-term space flights, such as missions to Mars.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration explains the importance of expiration dates on medications.