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Study: Medicines don't degrade faster in space

Researchers wanted to find out whether higher levels of radiation or microgravity might have an adverse affect on various medicines.

By
Brooks Hays
Drugs last just as long in space, aboard the International Space Station, as they do back on Earth, researchers at Baylor say. File Photo courtesy of NASA
Drugs last just as long in space, aboard the International Space Station, as they do back on Earth, researchers at Baylor say. File Photo courtesy of NASA

HOUSTON, Nov. 10 (UPI) -- Drugs in space are the same as drugs on Earth, new research suggests -- prescription drugs, that is.

Scientists recently ran tests on a number of medications returned to Earth after a stay of 550 days on the International Space Station. The medicines -- which included sleeping aids, pain relievers, antihistamines, an antidiarrheal and an alertness drug -- showed no signs of accelerated degradation.

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All drugs degrade over time. How fast they degrade is affected by a mix of environmental factors. Exposure to light and oxygen, for example, can promote a drug's breakdown.

Scientists at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, home of the Center for Space Medicine and Department of Pharmacology, wanted to find out whether higher levels of radiation or microgravity might have an adverse affect on the medicines stored on ISS. The answer, it turns out, is not.

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Most of the drugs tested were expired, returned home to Earth after being replaced with fresh pills. But testing at Baylor showed four of the nine drugs still met United States Pharmacopeia standards for viability nine months after their expiration date.

Researchers published their findings this week in The AAPS Journal.

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More work is needed, scientists say, to determine which medicines are safe for longer trips to deep space. Study authors warned against using the data to make inferences about other drugs.

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"The results are based only on measurements made at a single point in time, for a handful of medications," researchers explained in a press release. "The findings cannot, therefore, be applied to gauge the safety and effectiveness of other medicines, or extrapolated to other storage times."

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