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Inflight Pharmacokinetic and Pharmacodynamic Responses to Medications Commonly Used in Spaceflight (Rx_Metabolism)
Research Area:
Biomedical countermeasures
Species Studied
Scientific Name: Homo sapiens Species: Human

Crewmembers on space flight missions use medications to treat space flight-associated conditions like space adaptation syndrome as well as common ordinary complaints. They do so under the remote guidance of their flight surgeons, who base prescriptions on their knowledge and experience in terrestrial medicine. However, even after decades of space flight missions, it is unknown if medications act the same in the space flight environment as they do on Earth. Aspects of the space flight environment (low gravity, radiation exposure, closed environment, stress) have been shown to alter human physiology. Some of these physiological changes could be expected to alter either pharmacokinetics (PK), how the body absorbs, distributes, metabolizes and excretes administered medications or pharmacodynamics (PD), receptors or signaling systems that are the targets of medication action. Anecdotal data has suggested that, at least for certain medications or indications, inflight medication efficacy is poor, and space flight crew use high doses, repeated doses, or even experience apparent treatment failures. Fortunately none of these episodes has been serious enough to cause injury or evacuation from low-Earth orbit (LEO). However, in order to prepare for exploration missions where speedy evacuation to Earth may not be a possibility, the likelihood of unexpected medication action must be determined. This study aimed to determine if the LEO environment of the International Space Station (ISS) alters the actions of two common medications, a nonbenzodiazepine hypnotic and an antibiotic.

This study had the following specific aims:

  1. Determine PK for medication frequently used by crewmembers in two different environments: on Earth and during a space flight mission.
  2. Determine space flight versus ground differences in medication-associated effects on sleep, wakefulness, and several measures of cognitive function as measures of pharmacodynamics.

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Data Information
Data Availability
Archive is complete. Data sets are not publicly available but can be requested.
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Beta wave amplitude
Beta wave frequency
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Human Research Program (HRP) Human Research Roadmap (HRR) Information
Crew health and performance is critical to successful human exploration beyond low Earth orbit. The Human Research Program (HRP) investigates and mitigates the highest risks to human health and performance, providing essential countermeasures and technologies for human space exploration. Risks include physiological and performance effects from hazards such as radiation, altered gravity, and hostile environments, as well as unique challenges in medical support, human factors, and behavioral health support. The HRP utilizes an Integrated Research Plan (IRP) to identify the approach and research activities planned to address these risks, which are assigned to specific Elements within the program. The Human Research Roadmap is the web-based tool for communicating the IRP content.

The Human Research Roadmap is located at:

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Additional Information
Managing NASA Center
Johnson Space Center (JSC)
Responsible NASA Representative
Johnson Space Center LSDA Office
Project Manager: Terry Hill
Institutional Support
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Alternate Experiment Name
Proposal Date
Proposal Source
2013 HERO NNJ13ZSA002N-Crew Health (FLAGSHIP & NSBRI)