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Aspirin, the story of a grain that soothes our pain

2024-04-01 09:58:00, Shëndeti Amanda Foreman

Aspirin, the story of a grain that soothes our pain

For many years, the most reliable doctor's advice was even the simplest: Take two aspirin, and call me in the morning to tell me how you feel.

This inexpensive pain reliever, while helping to thin the blood and reduce inflammation, has been a staple of every household's medicine box around the world since it became available over the counter nearly 110 years ago. seen.

Willow bark, a distant ancestor of aspirin, was a popular ingredient in ancient medicines to relieve pain and treat skin problems. Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, believed strongly in the healing powers of willow.

For women with gynecological problems in the 5th century BC, he advised burning willow leaves "until the steam enters the uterus". But the fact that willow bark could reduce fever was not discovered until the 18th century.

Edward Stone, an English clergyman, noted that its extremely bitter taste was similar to that of the cinchona tree, the source of the expensive malaria drug, quinine.

Stone dried the bark of the willow tree and used it on himself in small doses to treat fevers.

When he began to feel better, he tested the powder on other malaria sufferers. When their fever disappeared after some time, he enthusiastically reported to the Royal Society in 1763 that he had found another cure for malaria. In fact, it had identified a way to treat her symptoms.

Willows contain salicin, a plant hormone with anti-inflammatory, fever-reducing and pain-relieving properties. Experiments with salicin, and its byproduct salicylic acid, began in earnest in Europe beginning in the 1820s.

In 1853, French chemist Charles Frédéric Gerhardt discovered how to make acetylsalicylic acid, the active ingredient in aspirin. But then he abandoned his research and sadly died at a young age. Historians still debate how aspirin became a successful drug for the German company Bayer.

Its official history credits Felix Hoffmann, a chemist with this company, who in 1897 managed to synthesize acetylsalicylic acid in the laboratory, hoping to relieve his father's severe rheumatic pain. Bayer patented aspirin in 1899, and by 1918 it had become one of the most widely used drugs in the world.

But did Hoffmann work alone? Shortly before his death in 1949, Arthur Eichengrün, a Jewish chemist who had spent World War II in a concentration camp, published a letter claiming that the Bayer company had deliberately erased his contribution.

In 2000, the BMJ published a study that supported Eichengrün's claim. Bayer in 1925, which became part of the Nazi-supporting conglomerate IGFarben, has denied that Eichengrün played any role in the scientific breakthrough with aspirin.

The company also shed its ties to the Third Reich after IGFarben was sold to Bayer in the early 1950s, but the drug's hegemony expanded rapidly. By 1956, Bayer's British subsidiary brought acetaminophen to market.

Meanwhile, ibuprofen became available in 1962. This drug became even more popular after the New England Journal of Medicine published a study in 1989 that found the pill reduced the risk of a heart attack by 44 percent.

Some public health officials immediately encouraged anyone over 50 to take an aspirin daily as a preventative measure. But as in the case with Pastor Stone, it seems that things are more complicated.

In 2022, the US Preventive Services Task Force officially spoke against taking the drug as a preventative measure, given the risk of internal bleeding and the availability of other therapies. So aspirin can work wonders in some cases, but not miracles in every case./ Wall Street Journal

16:05 Shëndeti Ilir Allkja

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