Also Known As: Aspirin, Asa, Asprin, Acetylsalicylic acid, Easprin, Ecotrin, Halfprin
Aspirin (USAN), also known as acetylsalicylic acid (/əˌsɛtəlˌsælɨˈsɪlɨk/ ə-SET-əl-SAL-i-SIL-ik; abbreviated ASA), is a salicylate drug, often used as an analgesic to relieve minor aches and pains, as an antipyretic to reduce fever, and as an anti-inflammatory medication. Aspirin was first isolated by Felix Hoffmann, a chemist with the German company Bayer, under the direction of Arthur Eichengrün.
Salicylic acid, the main metabolite of aspirin, is an integral part of human and animal metabolism. While in humans much of it is attributable to diet, a substantial part is synthesized endogenously.
Aspirin also has an antiplatelet effect by inhibiting the production of thromboxane, which under normal circumstances binds platelet molecules together to create a patch over damaged walls of blood vessels. Because the platelet patch can become too large and also block blood flow, locally and downstream, aspirin is also used long-term, at low doses, to help prevent heart attacks, strokes, and blood clot formation in people at high risk of developing blood clots. It has also been established that low doses of aspirin may be given immediately after a heart attack to reduce the risk of another heart attack or of the death of cardiac tissue. Many people take a daily aspirin to reduce their risk of heart attack. New evidence suggests that aspirin may be a powerful tool in cancer prevention as well.
The main undesirable side-effects of aspirin taken by mouth are gastrointestinal ulcers, stomach bleeding, and tinnitus, especially in higher doses. In children and adolescents, aspirin is no longer indicated to control flu-like symptoms or the symptoms of chickenpox or other viral illnesses, because of the risk of Reye's syndrome.
Aspirin is part of a group of medications called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), but differs from them in the mechanism of action. Though it, and others in its group called the salicylates, have similar effects (antipyretic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic) to the other NSAIDs and inhibit the same enzyme cyclooxygenase, aspirin (but not the other salicylates) does so in an irreversible manner and, unlike others, affect more the COX-1 variant than the COX-2 variant of the enzyme.
Today, aspirin is one of the most widely used medications in the world, with an estimated 40,000 tonnes of it being consumed each year. In countries where Aspirin is a registered trademark owned by Bayer, the generic term is acetylsalicylic acid (ASA).