Felix Hoffmann, a chemist simply looking to help alleviate his
father's arthritis pain, have imagined that he was developing
the closest thing to a "miracle drug" in our lifetime?
a young chemist at Bayer, Hoffmann's persistent work on the development
and testing of aspirin--technically known as acetyl salicylic
acid--led to its widespread use today. Aspirin's most significant
contribution may be to the fight against heart attack and stroke.
Hoffmann's discovery has earned him a place in the National Inventors
Hall of Fame. He will be inducted posthumously, it was announced
today at a ceremony at the headquarters of Hewlett-Packard, the
hall's leading corporate sponsor.
history begins far before Felix Hoffmann championed the painkiller's
benefits. Ancient Greeks first discovered the raw ingredient two-and-a-half
thousand years ago. Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, realized
that juice from the bark of willow trees killed pain, particularly
for women in labor. In 1829, scientists realized it was the salicylic
acid in the willow plants that made the pain killer work, but
it was very hard on stomachs and had to be buffered. The first
to do so was a French chemist named Charles Frederic Gerhardt.
He found a way to synthesize the drug, but had no interest in
marketing it as the process was difficult and he did not think
the product was better than naturally occurring salicyn. But in
1899, while at Bayer in Dusseldorf, Germany, Hoffmann rediscovered
Gerhardt's formula and gave it to his father in a desperate attempt
to relieve his rheumatoid arthritis. It worked astonishingly well,
but Hoffmann's boss was not interested in developing it. His boss
was more interested in Hoffmann's other discovery, dia-cetylmorphine,
which was called "heroine" because it made people feel heroic,
and was tested on babies and sold as cough medicine. Hoffmann
secretly carried on trials of aspirin in Berlin hospitals until
he could convince Bayer to market the product.
over 70 million pounds of aspirin are produced annually around
the world and Americans consume more than 15 billion tablets per
year. Physicians have prescribed aspirin to over 50 million Americans
to ward off a second heart attack, potentially preventing 210,000
heart attacks each year. The FDA has recognized that aspirin can
reduce the risk of death by as much as 23 percent if taken at
the onset of a heart attack.
than a cure for headaches and minor pain, aspirin has been clinically
proven to work wonders for many conditions. Aspirin is thought
to be a potent drug for cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's, stroke,
infertility, herpes and blindness. Recent studies now hail it
as new hope for prostate cancer patients. People at risk of heart
attack--the elderly, obese and smokers--are advised to take an
aspirin a day. Aspirin is used to prevent and treat stroke. Studies
have shown that long-term aspirin taking reduced the risk of death
from colon cancer by 44 percent. Esophagus and breast cancer are
added to the list, and people who take aspirin regularly are less
likely to get cataracts. These are just some of the known uses,
and new research papers are being published on the benefits of
aspirin every two-and-a-half hours.
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