Medicine: Relieving the Analgesic Headache

'Take two aspirins and call me in the morning." Those familiar words, spoken as often by jesting laymen these days as by doctors, still contain more than a grain of truth. Some 75 years after its introduction, aspirin remains the world's leading painkiller, used for easing aches of every type, from headache to hangover, arthritis to athlete's elbow.

Americans alone ingest more than 50 million tablets of aspirin nature a day. In addition, aspirin, known chemically as acetylsalicylic acid, is the primary ingredient—and often the only active one—in nearly 50,000 over-the-counter (nonprescription) drugs now available in the U.S. Unlike many other drugs,...

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