The issue of the effects of radiation on medication potency is not only important for long term stays in the ISS, but also very important for longer duration journeys and even for colonization.

One thing is certain, the chances are that astronauts/colonists will fall ill, not necessarily to the extent asked in How is the ISS equipped to deal with the outbreak of a contagion?, but with the more mundane illnesses mentioned in the answers. Some would require regular medication as well.

So, the question is, in the increased radiation environment of space, how does increased environmental radiation affect medication potency, in the long and short term?

Additionally, are medications on the ISS shielded to protect it from radiation?

  • $\begingroup$ This is a great question! It's also a good example one that could take advantage of some future SE feature that allows for cross-viewing of interdisciplinary questions. In this case it would be Biology and perhaps Chemistry. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Apr 16 '19 at 10:16
  • $\begingroup$ I don’t have time to write a full answer in detail right now, but I can tell you that the med packs are not specifically shielded from radiation beyond the standard shielding in the Lab. The question of how medications behave in a long-duration low-dose exposure regime is an open area of research - high dose/short duration exposures are better understood, and then tend to be for radiation sources not very analagous to the deep space environment. The second half of the human/medication system is how pharmacokinetics may be altered by the space environment independently from the meds. $\endgroup$ – JPattarini Jun 30 '19 at 1:10
  • $\begingroup$ I doubt that all medicines would behave in the same way as they are different chemically. Some are likely to be a lot more resistant to the effects of radiation than others. Ionizing radiation can disrupt chemical bonds which may not then reform in the same way causing chemical changes effectively degrading the active drug substances. $\endgroup$ – Slarty Oct 17 '19 at 22:01

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