Pharmaceutical use by U.S. astronauts on space shuttle missions.

Putcha L, Berens KL, Marshburn TH, Ortega HJ, Billica RD

Life Sciences Research Laboratories, NASA-Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX, USA.

We evaluated in-flight use of medications from astronaut debriefings after 79 U.S. Space Shuttle missions. From the 219 records obtained (each representing one person-flight), 94% included some medication being taken during flight; of that number, 47% were for space motion sickness, 45% for sleep disturbances, and smaller percentages for headache, backache, and sinus congestion. Drugs were taken most often orally, followed in decreasing order of frequency by intranasal, intramuscular, and rectal routes. Drugs for space motion sickness were taken mostly during the first 2 d of flight, drugs for pain during the first 4 d, and drugs for sleeplessness and sinus congestion were taken consistently for 9 flight days. About 85% of all doses had no reported side effects, and most of the side effects that were reported happened during the first mission day. About 80% of the drug-dose events were perceived effective by the recipients; most of the reports of ineffectiveness occurred during the first mission day. Promethazine, the only drug given by three different routes (orally, intramuscularly, and rectally), was most effective and had minimal side effects when taken intramuscularly. This information, although useful, should be expanded to include objective measures of effectiveness so that therapeutic efficacy can be assessed during flight