Medicine: Pass the Aspirin

Before such potent hormones as cortisone and ACTH were discovered, doctors could offer little to victims of rheumatoid arthritis except aspirin—simply, they thought, to ease the pain. But just when cortisone became generally available, researchers made a surprising discovery: far from being a mere painkiller, aspirin has the biological power (like ACTH, but to a lesser degree) of stimulating the adrenal glands to produce their cortisone-like hormones. Still, U.S. doctors took it for granted that cortisone itself must be better, went on prescribing it lavishly (daily cost to U.S. patient: 40¢ to 60¢).

Last week a joint committee of Britain's Medical Research...

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