THE WONDER DRUG TURNS 100 YEARS OLD!

SENIOR HIGHLIGHTS, September 1997 Health
By: Eve C. Lash, staff writer

O nce upon a time in 1897, there was a young Bayer company chemist, named, Felix Hoffmann. He discovered a stable form of acetylsalicyic acid, the active ingredient in aspirin. Hoffmann had been seeking a pain-relieving medication for his father’s debilitating rheumatism. Not only did the drug ease his father’s pain and inflammation, but when it was marketed by Bayer, two years later, it quickly became the world’s most popular pain reliever.

One century after Hoffmann’s discovery , aspirin continues to be the subject of extensive medical research and has gained international recognition for life-saving properties as a cardiac care regimen for millions of people. This little wonder drug remains at the forefront for Bayer, as the major marketer of aspirin worldwide.

Bayer continues to reinvent its application, with research and education aimed at discovering new uses for its little white drug. It helps to prevent everything from heart attacks to certain types of cancer-----and even Alzheimer’s disease.

From willow tree to Nobel Prize

Aspirin’s ingredient, acetylsalicylic acid (ASA), is the commercially synthesized form of a natural occurring compound whose uses can to traced back 2,000 years. The compound, called salicin, is found in the white willow tree. Around 200 B.C., Hippocrates, the Greek physician known as the “father of medicine”, discovered that chewing on willow bark could relieve pain and fever.

Although ASA was a proven pain reliever, no one really knew how it worked until more than 70 years after Hoffmann’s discovery. In 1971, British pharmacologist John Vane discovered that the antinflammatory properties of ASA resulted from its ability to inhibit the body’s production of certain chemical mediators (postaglandins) that promote inflammation and, therefore, cause pain. Vane received the Nobel Prize fort Medicine in 1982 for this medical research breakthrough.

Bayer and aspirin: 11 billion

Bayer trademarked “Aspirin” in Germany on March 6, 1899. The name comes from “a” for “acetyl” and “spir” from”spirea,” a plant offering a natural source of salicin. The drug made its debut in 1899 as a powder and, by 1900, Bayer’s brand of aspirin became the first major drug to be marketed as a convenient table.

By the first decade, aspirin was found to be so effective as a medicine by physicians worldwide, it became popularly used for a range of ailments from headaches, fever, inflammation, pleurisy and tonsillitis to tuberculosis, gonorrhea, and gout; to name a few. Affordable for practically everyone, aspirin quickly became a household necessity for safe and effective pain relief. Tens of thousands of people, in fact, took aspirin during several major influenza epidemics in the early 20th century.

Today, 1997, in the United States, as many as 29 billion tablets are consumed each and every year. As the world’s primary aspirin producer, Bayer has manufactured more than 11 billion tablets in the United States alone. Today, despite a highly competitive analgesics market, aspirin sales have continued to grow while competitors such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen have had relatively flat sales during the past three years, according to research complied by Bayer

Future use

While the pain and inflammation-relieving uses of aspirin continue to expand, the role of the drug in the prevention of major disease has become a research topic with increasing potential. The most conclusive evidence of aspirin’s preventive benefits comes from research related to its ability to help prevent heart attacks and strokes.

In the United States alone, it is estimated that as many as 10,000 additional lives could be saved annually by broader use of aspirin, in appropriate people who are at risk of heart attack or stroke. Many of the nation’s 1.5 million heart attacks each year could be prevented, providing additional years of healthy, productive living.

Bayer Aspirin is produced by the Bayer Corporation Consumer Care Division at facilities in Myerstown, PA. Bayer Corporation, headquartered in Pittsburgh, is a research-based company with businesses in health care, chemical and imaging technologies. The company had sales last year of $9.4 billion, and employs 24,000 people. Bayer Corporation is a member of the worldwide Bayer Group, a $31 billion chemical and pharmaceutical company based in Leverkusen, Germany.

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