Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.
Aspirin is a trade name for acetylsalicylic acid, a common pain reliever (also called an analgesic). The earliest known uses of the drug can be traced back to the Greek physician Hippocrates in the fifth century BC. He used powder extracted from the bark of willows to treat pain and reduce fever.
Salicin, the parent of the salicylate drug family, was successfully isolated from willow bark in 1829. Sodium salicylate, a predecessor to aspirin, was developed, along with salicylic acid, as a pain reliever in 1875.
Sodium salicylate was not often popular though, because it irritated the stomach. However, in 1897, Felix Hoffman changed the face of medicine forever. Hoffman was a German chemist working for Bayer. He had been using the common pain reliever of the time, sodium salicylate, to treat his father's arthritis. The sodium salicylate caused his father the same stomach trouble it caused other people, so Hoffman attempted to create a less acidic salicylate formula. His work led to the synthesis of acetylsalicylic acid, or ASA. This soon became the pain reliever of choice for doctors around the globe.
In the 1970s, British pharmacologist John Vane, PhD, began studying how aspirin works to relieve pain and reduce fever. Vane and his colleagues found that aspirin inhibits the release of a hormone-like substance called prostaglandin. This chemical helps regulate blood vessel elasticity and changes the functioning of blood platelets. Thus aspirin can affect blood clotting and ease inflammation.
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