On of the most commonly used drugs that changed the world is aspirin. Johann Büchner, Professor of Pharmacy at the University of Munich, isolated in 1828 a yellow substance from willow tree, which he called “salicin” (meaning willow in Latin). In 1829, Henri Leroux, a French pharmacist, isolated a pure crystalline form of salicin. In 1878, Friedrich Bayer built a chemical laboratory, at first used in the dye industry. In 1895, Arthur Eichengrün, the head of chemical research at Bayer, assigned to Felix Hoffmann, a chemist, to find a better salicylic acid, with less side effects. Due to Hoffmann’s personal interest (his father suffered from rheumatism and could no longer stand taking salicylic acid), he managed to modify the hydroxyl group on the benzene ring, altering salicylic acid chemically. At first Bayer sent out small packets of the drug to doctors, pharmacists and hospitals and managed to patent Aspirin in Britain and the USA, patent that were soon overturned. Being thus in need of tying the company to Aspirin, Bayer quit distributing Aspirin powder to doctors and pharmacists and switched to pill form of the drug in 1900 while in 1915 it became available as the first over-the-counter drug. Numerous alternatives appeared such as Alka-Seltzer (a soluble mix of aspirin and bicarbonate of soda) and Cafaspirin (aspirin with caffeine) putting aspirin to new uses. Kalmaline appearing above, is the Greek version of Cafaspirin.
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