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Archive for Saturday, August 11, 2001

Simple beginnings spur aspirin’s success

August 11, 2001

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The gift Felix Hoffman gave his dad in the late 19th century the drug aspirin keeps on giving, according to the Higuchi Biosciences Center and the Drug Information Center at Kansas University.

Hoffman's dad had arthritis. So Hoffman, a German chemist, invented a product in 1897 to ease his pain: aspirin.

How did it work? Amazingly, nobody knew until 1971, when British drug expert Sir John Vane found that aspirin slowed the body's production of the hormone prostaglandin. The hormone is an important molecule to the perception and experience of pain.

But the way aspirin works isn't the miraculous thing. The miracle is that new uses keep appearing for the drug. It's the key ingredient in more than 50 over-the-counter medicines.

For example, the humble pain killer is now used for cardiovascular disease. A Harvard University study found that men who took a tablet of aspirin every other day had 44 percent fewer heart attacks than those who didn't. Aspirin can also prevent blood clots and ward off strokes.

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