INDIA: Bayer, a leading pharmaceutical company, made history in 1899 when it registered the trade name “Aspirin” for its new anti-inflammatory drug acetylsalicylic acid.
Today, aspirin is one of the most commonly used drugs worldwide, but the story behind its creation is less known.
A German chemist named Felix Hoffmann developed aspirin in 1897. He worked for the pharmaceutical company Friedrich Bayer & Co., which later became Bayer AG.
Hoffmann wanted to create a pain reliever that would be gentler on the stomach than existing drugs, which often caused severe gastrointestinal side effects.
After several attempts, Hoffmann synthesised acetylsalicylic acid by modifying a compound found in willow bark, a traditional pain reliever used for centuries.
The new drug proved effective at reducing pain and inflammation, and it was easier on the stomach than other pain relievers available at the time.
The next step was to find a name for the new drug. “Aspirin” was derived from “a” for acetyl, “spir” from Spiraea ulmaria (meadowsweet), a plant that also contains salicylic acid, and “in” was a common suffix for medicines at the time.
Bayer applied for a trademark for “Aspirin” on March 6, 1899. The company received trademark certification on October 10, 1899, and Bayer began marketing Aspirin worldwide.
The drug quickly became popular and was widely used to treat pain, fever, and inflammation.
Aspirin’s success was not without controversy
In 1915, the British government seized the patent rights to aspirin and declared it a “national treasure” in response to the outbreak of World War I.
The government wanted to ensure that the drug would be available to soldiers and civilians alike, and they believed Bayer’s monopoly on the drug was hindering its distribution.
After the war, Bayer regained the patent rights to Aspirin. However, the drug’s popularity continued to grow, and it became available over the counter in many countries.
Doctors have since used aspirin to treat various conditions, including heart attacks, strokes, and cancer.
Despite its widespread use, aspirin is not without risks. The drug can cause stomach ulcers and bleeding, and people who are allergic to aspirin or have certain medical conditions should not take it.
However, when used appropriately, aspirin can be an effective and affordable treatment for many health problems.
The story of Bayer’s trade name “Aspirin” is one of innovation and controversy. The drug has become a staple in medicine cabinets around the world, but its history serves as a reminder of the complex social and political forces that shape the development and distribution of new drugs.
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