Felix Hoffmann and the Discovery of Aspirin

The history of aspirin, or acetyl salicylic acid, presents to us legendary outlines, referring to the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates. More recently, aspirin was synthesized for the first time by the French chemist Charles Frederic Von Gerhardt in 1853, but in an extremely raw form. During the years 1869 and 1870, Karl Johann Kraut, a German chemist, was able to produce the first purer form of acetyl salicylic acid, but he was however unable to obtain a valid drug test from his discovery.

The real discoverer of aspirin as a drug target was Felix Hoffmann, who was an employee of the Bayern Company, and that put aspirin into commercial form in 1897. Acetyl salicylic acid was promoted by Bayer under the name aspirin, but the Company was unable to acquire a patent on this invention.

When Felix Hoffmann made his capital discovery, he was 29 years old, and pushed ahead with his studies because his father was in poor health, suffering from arthritis, and he had taken too many drugs that had caused him a stomach ulcer. Twenty years later, other researchers discovered that aspirin blocked the production of uric acid retained by the kidneys, and that this effect was related to its action both on the tissues and nerves of the body. Later, a British pharmacologist also discovered that acetyl salicylic acid also reduces the production of prostaglandins that cause painful cramps.

Aspirin in its long lifetime changed the lives of millions of people. Some doctors prescribe large doses of aspirin that are estimated at 60-70 billion per year, because aspirin acts as a prophylactic not only against both fever and pain, but it prevents heart attacks and respiratory inflammation. What’s more, according to recent studies, it appears that acetyl salicylic acid might have beneficial effects on colon and age-related eye diseases, such as cataracts.

In Western countries the use of aspirin rates to very high levels, and, according to statistics, the United States is the largest consumer of aspirin. Many people know the best ways to take aspirin without undesirable side effects. The most common of these precautions suggest we wouldn’t get any milk, because acetyl salicylic acid can also accentuate acidity, or alcohol, because it can cause excessive gastro-intestinal irritation. Then we don’t give aspirin to children or to teens under 15-16 years, because aspirin can cause neurological complications in young people.

By implementing some basic and empiric precautions, we can see how acetyl salicylic acid has very phenomenal therapeutic properties, and for this reason we should also thank the then-young Felix Hoffmann, and even (at least a little bit) arthritis had affected his father.


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