Friday, December 26, 2008

Trivia About Aspirin

Almost on a daily basis, one may read about a new medication being developed or approved for the benefit of patients with a particular medical condition they may have at some time. Often, these announcements from the makers of these new drugs praise the novelty of their new pharmaceutical, and the numerous benefits associated with their innovative synthetic molecule.

But it’s possible that there may actually be at least one super drug that is not new and really may be considered a unique medication for many reasons.In fact, it’s one of the oldest medications that is still available to us, and that medication is in fact aspirin. Aspirin was the first non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) ever that provided symptomatic relief for those patients experiencing pain.

Noted as ASA by doctors typically, aspirin effects have been noted for thousands of years, as the active ingredient comes from the bark of a White Willow tree, Thousands of years ago,patients with pain or a fever would chew on this bark for the relief this bark provided them for their particular ailments. Yet due to the harshness of the natural chemical of this bark, Bayer decided to synthesize it to make it more tolerable for the user within the last 200 years.

Fast forward to well over a hundred years ago and it was those drug developers at Bayer pharmaceuticals (pronounced ‘Beier’) who developed what we now have,which is aspirin. Bayer, by the way, is the same company that brought us heroin (named so due to its perceived ‘heroic’ qualities as inititially it was believed that herion was a non addictive morphine as it relates to pain relief. This, of course, proved to be very inaccurate. Bayer also developed mustard gas and methadone, as well as many other products designed to alter the human being.

The company originated in Germany, but presently has its U.S. headquarters in New York. One who worked for Bayer,Felix Hoffman, was driven to develop an agent for his father’s rheumatism. The result of his efforts resulted in the development of what is known now as aspirin. And it was a difficult task to develop this drug, as it was toxic to the stomach due to the nature of the active ingredient again obtained from the bark of the white willow tree. Dr. Hoffman and others at Bayer developed a drug that proved to be tolerable to patients while keeping the active ingredient in tact through a method of delivery developed by Dr. Hoffman’s team at Bayer.

After launching this medication for others to use, aspirin was priced at about 50 cents an ounce. It was also at this time aspirin was only available in power form. Soon before 1920, aspirin developed the tablet form of the drug and was then available by prescription. Regardless, aspirin was responsible for one third of sales for Bayer during this time, due to its popularity due to the effects of this medication for those so many in need of relief.

While all drugs have side effects, aspirin is one of very few drugs that offers suitable efficacy with perhaps mild side effects associated with other similiar medications, when asa is compared with them regarding this issue. Aspirin has been found to be beneficial for a wide variety of disease states since the time it was first developed. In fact, some of aspirin’s additional uses have only recently been discovered by others.

This may be why the New York Times called aspirin a 'wonder drug' in the 1960s, according to others. In the 1970s, the mechanism of aspirin was isolated, which is the blockage of prostaglandins naturally present in the human body. These prostaglandins within one's body are a major contributor for physiological inflammation resulting from several etiologies.

One such example of an additional benefit of aspirin is tht it has been associated with decreased risk of asthma and prostate cancer in the elderly. Also, aspirin has been linked with lowering the risk of breast cancer and colon cancer as well. Yet these conclusions are based on limited research with aspirin at this time.

Aspirin is a blood thinner by its nature, and has been associated with decreasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes in certain patient populations, as the drug prevents clots that cause these cardiovascular events. However, aspirin has not been shown to prevent heart attacks in diabetic patients, it has been said by others. These cardiovascular benefits of aspirin were first suggested in the 1940s, and the FDA suggested that it should be the drug of choice for those who experienced a heart attack as recently as a little over a decade ago.

Aspirin intake is also beneficial for those after coronary bypass procedures. In addition, aspirin has been shown to reduced blood pressure with those who have mild hypertension, if aspirin is taken at night with this patient population.

A topical formulation of aspirin was developed recently for those experiencing Herpes pain, which presents itself on the skin of the victim of Herpes. The drug has been proven beneficial for those experiencing migraine pains as well with the oral form of the drug. Aspirin at low doses is taken by many as a preventive drug to decrease cardiovascular incidents that may occur in their future.

Aspirin has been the best selling painkiller free of the past addictive qualities of opiate medications used before asprin existed since at least the 1950s. It is also the most studied drug ever- with over 3000 scientific papers published worldwide.

Also, over 15 billion tablets of aspirin are sold annually, which amounts to about 80million aspirin tablets consumed daily by others. This amounts to over 16,000 tons of aspirin consumed during this time, or about 70,000 metric tons of aspirin a year. Over a decade ago, a study was performed and concluded that twice as many people would choose aspirin over a computer, given the two choices, because of the benefits the drug would have for them upon ingesting this drug.

Side effects with aspirin would include GI bleeding- especially if aspirin is taken in large amounts, along with aspirin's association of Reye’s syndrome in children, yet both are relatively rare. Yet all things considered, clearly the benefits of aspirin outweigh any risks of the drug when one examines the curative qualities proven in this aged drug that we still use for restoration of our health.

Lately, there have been issues with other NSAIDs, such as Cox II inhibitors, without full recollection or knowledge that aspirin is in fact the world’s most widely used drug, and for good reasons, since health care providers suggest this one drug for their patients often for the reasons stated.

At times, something newer is not always something better.

Dan Abshear

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