Aspirin Becomes the Unexpected Miracle Drug

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Aspirin Becomes the Unexpected Miracle Drug

Aspirin is an old medicine.  Its roots go back at least 4000 years.  Medicines made from willow and other salicylate-rich plants appear in clay tablets from ancient Sumer, as well as ancient Egypt.  Hippocrates referred to the use of salicylic tea to reduce fevers around 400 BC.  By the nineteenth century, pharmacists were experimenting with and prescribing a variety of chemicals related to salicylic acid, the active component of willow extract.

Then, in 1897, scientists at the drug and dye firm Bayer began investigating acetylsalicylic acid as a less-irritating replacement for common salicylate medicines, and identified a new way to synthesize it.  By 1899, Bayer had dubbed this drug “Aspirin” and was selling it around the world   Initially, the word Aspirin was Bayer's brand name, rather than the generic name of the drug; however, Bayer's rights to the trademark were lost or sold in many countries. 

Aspirin's popularity grew over the first half of the twentieth century leading to fierce competition and the proliferation of many aspirin brands and products.   But, after the development of acetaminophen in 1956 and ibuprofen in 1962, Aspirin's popularity declined.

But amazingly, the latest scientific journals are filled with new research documenting numerous benefits from aspirin usage in areas as diverse as infectious disease, dementia, heart disease, stroke, and various types of cancer.  In fact, the wide range of exciting new discoveries related to this very inexpensive and time-tested medication is nothing short of miraculous.  And this branch of medical research is indicative of a broader pattern we’re seeing throughout medical science.

Let’s examine this trend and consider where it may be leading.

A low dose aspirin regimen has long been recommended for patients who have suffered a heart attack or stroke.  Building on this, a major international study, published in 2017 in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that the combination of two drugs — rivaroxaban and aspirin — is superior to aspirin alone in preventing further heart complications in people with vascular disease...

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