Happy 100th birthday, aspirin

Pharmaceutical Representative

More than 100 years after its discovery, Bayer Corp. is celebrating the success of aspirin.

More than 100 years after its discovery, Bayer Corp. is celebrating the success of aspirin.

In August, the Pittsburgh-based company initiated a comprehensive marketing campaign to draw attention to the multiple uses of its "wonder drug." Basically, the company is attempting to give a marketing face-lift to one of the oldest common medicines.

Aspirin was born in August 1897 when a young German chemist discovered a stable form of acetylsalicylic acid, aspirin's active ingredient. Two years later, Bayer® Aspirin hit the market and quickly became the world's most commonly used pain reliever. By 1915, it was available without a prescription.

How the product actually worked in the body, however, was not understood until 1971. That year, British pharmacologist John Vane discovered that the anti-inflammatory properties of salicylates are a result of their ability to inhibit the body's production of chemical mediators, or prostaglandins, which promote inflammation and pain. Vane received the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1982 for his medical breakthrough.

Today, approximately 29 billion aspirin tablets are consumed in America each year. Bayer manufactures 11 billion of those tablets.

Studies linking daily doses of aspirin with prevention of heart attacks and strokes have boosted product sales in recent years. The FDA may also approve aspirin for treatment during a suspected heart attack; for the prevention of stroke in women after a minor stroke; after a minor stroke in men and women; for prevention of a first heart attack in certain high-risk groups; and in dosages lower than previously recommended for treatment of minor stroke and heart attack.