Monday, June 13, 2016

Word of the Week - Aspirin

No, I don't have a headache. Not today. ;-) But this a word I'd looked up to make sure I could use it in a 1914 setting, so I thought I'd share the interesting pharmaceutical history that went along with it.

Aspirin was a trademarked name, created in 1899 by German chemist Heinrich Dreser. It's from the Latin spiraea, or "meadow-sweet," the plant from which it's derived.

Here's the interesting bit. According to German law, prescriptions had to be filled exactly as written. So chemist companies would trademark very easily-made drugs that were made from common items, using household names for things that were easy for doctors to remember. Doctors would then write a prescription, and they would have to be filled as written. No generics for them! So these companies were then making a lot of money from very simple items.

I find it interesting that, in the U.S. at least, "aspirin" is certainly not considered a brand name; it's the rather generic name for that type of medicine, which any company can then make. I wonder if the same is true these days in Germany...


On a totally unrelated note, the paperback of A Stray Drop of Blood is finally available on Amazon again!


  1. Hard to believe, it seems so commonplace now.

  2. Wow, I didn't know that about aspirin. Interesting.

  3. You know who to ask that question.

  4. You know who to ask that question.

  5. I'm a little behind with my blog reading...

    The usage of pills in Germany is less wide-spread than in the United States (where they seem to be distributed like candy). So there is less common talk about it.
    From my experience, people talk about "taking a pill" when complaining about headaches. Less naming of a brand or active component. And, thanks to frequent advertising, people will know that Aspirin is a brand name.
    Nonetheless, when the name aspirin is used in Germany, it is not limited to the brand product. In other words: If you ask for aspirin in a pharmacy, the pharmacist will still ask for your preference of manufacturer.
    They will also ask in case you come with a prescription, since generics are allowed by now (even encouraged by most health insurance plans).