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Cardiovascular Disease
Pregnancy Complications

The Synthesis of Aspirin

Because of its irritant action, efforts seem to have been made by a number of chemists to find a form of salicylic acid, or a derivative of it, which could be better tolerated by patients.

In 1897, one hundred years ago, Felix Hoffman, a chemist working in a laboratory owned by Friedrich Bayer, in Elberfeld, Germany, was stimulated by earlier work on acetylation and he formulated a pure and stable form of acetyl salicylic acid. (5) Hoffman was motivated by the suffering of his father, who had severe arthritis, and could not tolerate salicylic acid.

Hoffman and Bayer gave the name A-spirin to the new preparation. This appears to come from acetylation (A-), together with Spirin, part of the name for Meadow-sweet (Spiraea ulmaria), a plant rich in salicylates. (6)

Bayer patented the name and commenced to market the product in 1899. It was a huge success and sales grew rapidly. In fact, the company set up by Friedrich Bayer & Company is generally reckoned to have been the first pharmaceutical company, and the production of aspirin is generally accepted to have laid the foundation of the modern pharmaceutical industry. (7)

aspirin was widely accepted with great enthusiasm, and very soon it was recommended in the medical press for use in fever, migraine, the pain of inoperable cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, rheumatic fever, acute tonsillitis, corns and warts. (8) Now, in 1997, the National Library of Medicine lists over 23,000 papers on aspirin, with 880 published in 1997 alone.

400 BC - salicylates recommended by Hippocrates

Pre-industrial Europe - salicylate rich plants used in folk medicine

1763 - Reverend Edward Stone describes the medicinal uses of salicylates

1859 - Salicylic acid is synthesised from carbolic acid

1897 - Hoffman produces acetyl salicylic acid

1899 - Friedrich Bayer & Company market aspirin


Cardiovascular Disease
The Medicinal Use of Salicylates
The Synthesis of Aspirin
Platelets and Thrombosis
Aspirin and platelets
Aspirin and Coronary Thrombosis
Aspirin and Stroke
Aspirin in Primary Prevention
‘Early’ and ‘Immediate’ Aspirin
Formulations of Aspirin
Undesirable Side Effects
The Dose for Prophylaxis
The Cost of Prophylaxis
Alternatives to Aspirin
Possible New Uses of Aspirin