Aspirin is a drug used to reduce inflammation, fever and relieve minor pain. It is also used as a preventative for strokes and heart attacks for high-risk patients. It is one of the most widely used drugs in the world with about 40,000 tonnes of aspirin being used each year. The side effects of aspirin include stomach ulcers, stomach bleeding and tinnitus, although these usually only occur with large or prolonged doses. Aspirin is not recommended for children or adolescents because of the increased risk of Reye’s syndrome (see our article “is aspirin safe for children“). Let’s find out who invented this important drug.
Who invented aspirin?
Plant extracts containing the active ingredient of aspirin were used throughout history to relieve pain and fever. Although this substance was eventually identified and isolated it caused digestive upset. In 1897 a team of chemists working at German pharmaceutical company Bayer AC produced an altered version, from the herb meadowsweet, that caused less digestive upset. The person who made this discovery is the subject of much debate, but it is generally credited to Felix Hoffman, who was under the direction of Arthur Eichengrün. Some time later Eichengrün, who was Jewish, claimed that he was the lead investigator and the records of this had been destroyed by the Nazi regime.
Did you know?
An impure form of the active ingredient of aspirin was first prepared by French chemist Charles Frederic Gerhardt in 1853.
The name Aspirin was originally a trademark of Bayer, but the company lost this trademark in some countries after World War II where aspirin became the generic name for the drug. The name aspirin was derived from a (acetylated) spir (spiracea ulmaria plant) in (common suffix for a drug).