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Medicines on the moon

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Forty years ago this week the Apollo 11 spacecraft set off to boldly go where no man had gone before. Its mission, which it successfully completed, was “to land men on the lunar surface and to return them safely to Earth”.

Now, as pharmacists, you are no doubt dying to know what medicines the crew took with them on their excursion. Luckily, I am on hand to enlighten you, having studied the prelaunch press pack and the mission report.

According to the press pack, the command module’s medical kit contained the following tablets or capsules: “60 antibiotic, 12 nausea, 12 stimulant, 18 painkiller, 60 decongestant, 24 diarrhoea, 72 aspirin and 21 sleeping”.

Also in the kit were three motion sickness injectors, three pain suppression injectors, one bottle of “first aid ointment”, two bottles of eye drops and three nasal decongestant sprays.

The lunar landing module carried its own small kit containing four stimulant, eight diarrhoea, two sleeping, four painkiller and 12 aspirin pills, plus a bottle of eye drops.

On the way to moon orbit, the three astronauts checked their supplies and discovered a problem with the packaging of their solid dose medicines. These were sealed individually in plastic or foil containers but the air had not been fully evacuated during packaging and they had ballooned in the low pressure cabin atmosphere. As a result, they would not all fit back into the box. In addition, the oxymetazoline nasal sprays turned out to be unusable because the content bubbled out when the cap was removed.

Luckily, the crew remained in good health throughout their eight-day mission and did not need to resort to medicines. However, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took prophylactic doses of Lomotil before embarking on their day trip to the lunar surface. The crew also consumed a few of the aspirins. Aldrin stated that he took two every night to help him sleep.

On the way home each astronaut took an antinauseant tablet (hyoscine 0.3mg) and a stimulant tablet (dexamfetamine 5mg) four hours before re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, with a repeat dose after splashdown.

In case the crew had brought back any malevolent moon germs, quarantine procedures were implemented, beginning with the spraying of the floating spacecraft with povidone-iodine solution. Before their helicopter trip to the recovery vessel, the astronauts donned biological isolation garments and were wiped down with sodium hypochlorite solution.

After they entered their isolation unit, everything they might have come into contact with en route was treated with glutaraldehyde or formaldehyde.

Of course, these disinfectant precautions were all based on the questionable assumption that lunar germs would be susceptible to earthly germicides. Luckily, no biocide-resistant alien bugs seem to have invaded Earth over the past 40 years. Or have they?

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From: Beyond pharmacy blog

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