Drugs in space: Pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics in astronauts

Eur J Pharm Sci. 2017 Nov 15;109S:S2-S8. doi: 10.1016/j.ejps.2017.05.025. Epub 2017 May 19.


Space agencies are working intensely to push the current boundaries of human spaceflight by sending astronauts deeper into space than ever before, including missions to Mars and asteroids. Spaceflight alters human physiology due to fluid shifts, muscle and bone loss, immune system dysregulation, and changes in the gastrointestinal tract and metabolic enzymes. These alterations may change the pharmacokinetics and/or pharmacodynamics of medications used by astronauts and subsequently might impact drug efficacy and safety. Most commonly, medications are administered during space missions to treat sleep disturbances, allergies, space motion sickness, pain, and sinus congestion. These medications are administered under the assumption that they act in a similar way as on Earth, an assumption that has not been investigated systematically yet. Few inflight pharmacokinetic data have been published, and pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic studies during spaceflight are also lacking. Therefore, bed-rest models are often used to simulate physiological changes observed during microgravity. In addition to pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic changes, decreased drug and formulation stability in space could also influence efficacy and safety of medications. These alterations along with physiological changes and their resulting pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic effects must to be considered to determine their ultimate impact on medication efficacy and safety during spaceflight.

Keywords: Astronaut; Microgravity; Pharmacodynamics; Pharmacokinetics; Spaceflight.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astronauts
  • Humans
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / administration & dosage*
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / metabolism*
  • Pharmacokinetics
  • Space Flight / methods
  • Weightlessness


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations