The early clinical history of salicylates in rheumatology and pain


The first clinical reports on the treatment of fever and pain with salicylate-containing natural willow bark remedies were made by the English clergyman Edward Stone in 1763. The pharmacologically active principles were isolated from natural sources by Italian, German and French scientists between 1826 and 1829. Salicylic acid was first synthesised by the German Gerland in 1852 and a year later the Frenchman Gerhardt synthesised acetylsalicylic acid. The first reports on the clinical use of salicylic acid in rheumatic disorders were made independently by the two German physicians Stricher and Reiss in 1876. Acetylsalicylic acid was rediscovered by Hoffmann in 1897 and by the turn of the century it had gained worldwide recognition in the treatment of pain and rheumatological disorders. Reports on adverse events relating to gastrointestinal intolerance and bleeding appeared early, but were largely neglected until the 1950s. Today, salicylates are still widely used as analgesic, antipyretic and anti-inflammatory drugs. New indications, such as thrombosis prophylaxis, have emerged during the last decades, and yet others are being explored.

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Correspondence to T. Hedner.

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Hedner, T., Everts, B. The early clinical history of salicylates in rheumatology and pain. Clin Rheumatol 17, 17–25 (1998).

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Key words

  • History
  • Pain
  • Rheumatology
  • Salicylates