Taking a trip to Mars?  Don’t forget to pack sleeping pills and skin cream. Published in The FASEB Journal, results from the first ever study examining medications used by astronauts on long-duration missions to the International Space Station (ISS) show that most of the medicine used relates to the unusual and confined microgravity environment in which the astronauts work or to the actual work that they do on their missions. 

Researchers examined medical records of 24 ISS crewmembers on 20 missions >30 days over a 10-year period to analyze the medications they used, the reasons for use, and how well they said the medicines worked. Also, the quality, frequency, and severity of adverse events were tracked. The use of sleep aids and the incidence of skin rashes were higher than expected, described Virginia E. Wotring, PhD, researcher from the Universities Space Research Association in Houston, TX.  Researchers noted that the usage of sleep aids was about 10 times greater during spaceflight missions. 

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“Getting a good night’s sleep in space is a little trickier than you might think. Not only do you have to deal with the discomfort of microgravity, but you also wake up to the fact that ‘day’ and ‘night’ are best experienced on a planet,” said Gerald Weissmann, MD, Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. “As far as skin rashes are concerned, that should be no surprise either. Those are close quarters and things get itchy.”

No treatment changes could be suggested from this study but the data did highlight two areas for future studies: sleep problems and skin rashes. Other frequently used medications on the ISS were for pain, congestion, or allergy. These findings may help the world’s space agencies anticipate needs for future ISS inhabitants as well as the daily medical needs of future Mars explorers.

For more information visit fasebj.org.