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Rev Med Interne. 2000 Mar;21 Suppl 1:8s-17s.

[Aspirin throughout the ages: a historical review].

[Article in French]

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Département de médecine interne, centre hospitalier universitaire Rouen-Boisguillaume, France.


Even at the beginning of the next millennium, aspirin will still offer surprises. Its relatively young pharmacological history compares with the early use of salicylate-containing plants since antiquity. The Assyrians and the Egyptians were aware of the analgesic effects of a decoction of myrtle or willow leaves for joint pains. Hippocrates recommended chewing willow leaves for analgesia in childbirth and the Reverend Edward Stones is acknowledged as the first person to scientifically define the beneficial antipyretic effects of willow bark. At the beginning of the 19th century salicin was extracted from willow bark and purified. Although a French chemist, Charles Gerhardt, was the first to synthesize aspirin in a crude form, the compound was ignored, and later studied by Felix Hoffmann. He reportedly tested the rediscovered agent on himself and on his father, who suffered from chronic arthritis--a legend was born and Bayer Laboratories rose to the heights of the pharmacological world. First used for its potent analgesic, antipyretic and anti-inflammatory properties, aspirin was successfully used as an antithrombotic agent. Sir John Vane elucidated aspirin's active mechanism as an inhibitor of prostaglandin synthetase and received the Nobel Price in Medicine for this work in 1982. Two isoform of cyclooxygenase (COX-1 and COX-2) have now been identified, each possessing similar activities, but differing in characteristic tissue expression. The cox enzyme is now a target of drug interventions against the inflammatory process. After two centuries of evaluation, aspirin remains topical, and new therapeutic indications are increasingly being studied.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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