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Aspirin The Remarkable Story of A Wonder Drug

2004 non-fiction book by Diarmuid Jeffreys

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Many more twists and turns than I expected.

  • Feb 14, 2011
  • by
As the title suggests, this is indeed a remarkable tale that unfolds over a period of some 3000 years. In "Aspirin: The Remarkable Story of A Wonder Drug" British author Diarmuid Jeffreys has given us an extremely well written and spellbinding account of the emergence of that little white pill that so many of us seem to take for granted.

The story of aspirin has its origins in ancient Egypt. The Ebers papyrus, an amazing 110 page document unearthed in 1858, is perhaps the longest and most compehensive medical papyrus ever recovered and studied by Egyptologists. Believe it or not, this document deals almost exclusively with internal medicine and discusses a wide range of ailments. Further, the document talks about over 100 herbal and vegetable base remedies. Of these, perhaps the most significant was salix or willow. You see it turns out that willow is the key ingredient in the most remarkable and enduring drug the world has ever known--aspirin.  Sadly, this wealth of medical know-how was lost for nearly 3000 years. But aided by the curiosity and determination of a number of individuals, the secrets of the willow would be unlocked and the human race would be so much the better for their efforts. This is what "Aspirin: The Remarkable Story of A Wonder Drug" is all about.

If you have ever done any reading on the development of new drugs you appreciate that it is most often a dreadfully slow, painstaking and very expensive process. The story of the development of aspirin was no exception. But as Diarmuid Jeffries so aptly points out there were so many other factors involved in the emergence of the little white pill including World War I, the great pandemic of 1919 and the rise of Nazi Germany. Add to those the compelling story of AG Bayer Co. and way that aspirin was successfully marketed to the general public and the result is a book with so many unexpected twists and turns that I simply could not put it down.  "Aspirin: The Remarkable Story of A Wonder Drug" is a must read for history buffs and anyone interested in the development of new drugs or even for those interested in the history of advertising and marketing.    Very highly recommended! 
Many more twists and turns than I expected. Many more twists and turns than I expected. Many more twists and turns than I expected. Many more twists and turns than I expected.

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February 15, 2011
I read an article about this book once, and your review just resparked my curiosity in it! The history of aspirin is surprisingly fascinating. Thanks for sharing, Paul!
About the reviewer
Paul Tognetti ()
Ranked #2
I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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About this book


According to British journalist Jeffreys' well-documented book, aspirin was born a little more than 100 years ago. That is, the word aspirin was coined in 1899 as a label for a new product, acetylsalicylic acid, manufactured by the German textile dye and pharmaceutical company Bayer. The concoction had been a known pain and fever reliever for well more than 6,000 years, but it took Bayer, which would eventually lose control of its baby in America for more than 75 years, to create the very first drug that owed its existence to a commercial rather than a scientific or medical ethic. Yes, aspirin was the earliest offspring of the increasingly uncomfortable yet wildly profitable marriage of medicine and commerce. What with Americans knocking back about 80 billion (yes, billion) 300 mg aspirin tablets a year, to say nothing of even more billions taken throughout the rest of the world, the story of this little white pill makes fascinating reading. Besides the drug's widely known medical applications for pain and fever relief, heart attack and stroke prevention, and more, its colorful history includes drama, pathos, plot twists, humor, intrigue and even a handful of scurrilous and despicable characters. Donna Chavez
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ISBN-10: 1582343861
ISBN-13: 978-1582343860
Author: Diarmuid Jeffreys
Genre: Medicine
Date Published: August 26, 2004
Format: Hardcover
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