In 1899 the German pharmaceutical firm Bayer AG introduced aspirin, a medicine developed by Bayer chemists Felix Hoffmann and Arthur Eichengrün. It rapidly became the world’s most widely used over-the-counter medication and the first modern, mass-marketed pill. Today aspirin is the most common synthetic drug in the world. Around 35,000 tons of aspirin are synthesized annually, totaling 100 billion standard tablets. Each costs approximately a penny and a half to produce.

Chemically, aspirin is closely related to salicylic acid, a natural substance that is found in willow bark and other plants and that was used as a painkiller in such ancient cultures as Egypt and Mesopotamia. Like salicylic acid, aspirin exhibits anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, and fever-reducing effects; however, aspirin is less irritating to the stomach.

Hear more about the history of aspirin