TIMELINES: What everyday drug is patented by Germany’s Friedrich Bayer & Co March 6, 1899?

March 6, 2012 Updated: September 29, 2015

Tuesday, Mar. 6, 2012


On March 6, 1899, German pharmaceutical company Friedrich Bayer & Co. registers a patent with the Imperial Patent Office in Berlin, Germany, for a drug called acetylsalicylic acid, the scientific name for the widely used pain relieving medication know as Aspirin. The use of salicin, the active ingredient in acetylsalicylic acid, dates back to ancient times. The ancient Greeks used a primitive form of salicin found in willow trees for pain relief, despite its strong taste and adverse affects on the stomach. Felix Hoffmann, a young German pharmacist working for Bayer, is credited with developing a form of acetylsalicylic acid that is easier to take, paving the way for Bayer to corner the market on the pain-relieving drug. Despite Aspirin being widely attributed to Hoffman, there is evidence that Arthur Eichengrun—a Jewish chemist—actually developed it, but Eichengrun’s contributions are discredited during the Nazi era. After World War II, the United States seizes Bayer’s U.S. assets and sells them to Sterling Winthrop, for $5.3 million. The word Asprin derives from “a” for acetyl, “spir” from the spirea plant and the suffix “in”—commonly used in names for medications.


Last week, German pharmaceutical company Bayer AG reported a “solid” start to 2012 after nearly doubling profits last year. In 2011, Bayer AG reported net profits of 2.47 billion euros (US$3.3 billion)—an 89.9 percent increase from 2010. Bayer AG CEO Marijn Dekkers said, “one of our strengths continues to be our well-stocked development pipeline in pharmaceuticals. We were particularly successful here in 2011.” In 1994, Bayer reacquired its previously seized assets from Sterling Winthrop, allowing the German company to, again, profit from the sale of Aspirin in American markets. Photo Caption(s) & Photo Location(s)