Opinion Article
November 16, 2022
3. Good health and well-being

3. Good health and well-being

Ensuring access to quality health and promoting well-being for all, at all ages

Over one century of Pharmaceutical Innovation - Incremental Innovation and Strategic repositioning of acetylsalicylic acid (ASA).

Not just only for your common headache! This century old product has an exciting story to tell about reinvention and staying relevant in today’s pharma market.

Introduced more than 120 years ago, acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) is still today one of Bayer’s best-selling products (1). This success can be attributed to the continuous searching for incremental product innovations and strategic repositioning into new markets.

Over the product’s long history, the continuous investment on diverse incremental technological innovations (see Fig.1) has always been present. This effort promoted the resilience of the product in face of competition contributing to its solid market position (which remains nowadays).

Fig. 1:Innovations/strategic repositioning of ASA over the years versus Global salesof ASA (€ million). Ongoing research with ASA. Sources: (1), (2), (3), (4),(5), (6), (7), (8), (9)

The product has been improved throughout the years, for instance by reducing side effects, facilitating the ease of use, or being repositioned for new indications (see Fig.1).

ASA has been launched in 1901, in its classical tablet form, being one of the first medicines to be marketed in this dosage form (5) facilitating the dosage of the drug and reducing the risk for consumers (4). More than a century of continuous improvements and innovation leadership have followed. Those efforts have been translated in competitive advantages recognized by the consumers and were determinant to the long-lasting sustainability of the product. One example is the chewable ASA tablet that enabled to use the product where no water is available.

The repositioning of the product in 1993 to address new indications for heart attack prevention was an important move, with the Cardio segment representing today almost 40% of Aspirin sales (10). This move also opened the door to the appearance of other antiplatelets (e.g. Clopidogrel in 1998).

ASA was one of the first commonly used drugs and it is still one of the most researched drugs in the world, with an estimated 700 to 1,000 clinical trials conducted each year (11). Future new therapeutic indications might be for cancer prevention or bipolar disorder (7; 8; 9).

The successful history of ASA shows the importance to keep investing in technology to strengthen the brands combined with a strategic repositioning into new markets/indications based on a continuous attention to the insights coming from research and innovation efforts.


1. Bayer. Annual Reports. 1998-2018.

2. American Society of Hematology. Antiplatelet Therapy. [Online] 1 December 2008. [Cited: 13 June 2022.] https://www.hematology.org/about/history/50-years/antiplatelet-therapy.

3. Mundo das Marcas. Aspirina. [Online] 30 June 2015. [Cited: 9 June 2022.] https://mundodasmarcas.blogspot.com/2006/05/aspirina-always-for-you-there.html.

4. Jennewein, Klaus. Intellectual Property Management. The Role of Technology-Brands in the Appropriation of Technological Innovation. s.l. : Springer, 2005.

5. Bayer. Aspirin™ - Surprisingly Versatile. [Online] 12 April 2022. [Cited: 13 June 2022.] https://www.bayer.com/en/products/aspirin.

6. The progress in the research of antiplatelet agents (1995–2017). Benimana, Oscar, et al. 10, Future Medicinal Chemistry, Vol. 9, pp. 1087-1110.

7. Aspirin might reduce the incidence of breast cancer: an updated meta-analysis of 38 observational studies. Cao, Yueqing and Tan, Aihua. 38, 2020, Medicine, Vol. 99.

8. Cancer prevention with aspirin in hereditary colorectal cancer (Lynch syndrome), 10-year follow-up and registry-based 20-year data in the CAPP2 study: a double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial. Burn, John, Sheth, Harsh and Elliott, Faye. 10240, 2020, The Lancet, Vol. 395, pp. 1855-1863.

9. NIH U.S. National Library of Medicine. Effects of Low Dose Aspirin in Bipolar Disorder (The A-Bipolar RCT). ClinicalTrials.gov. [Online] 5 September 2021. [Cited: 13 June 2022.] https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT05035316.

10. When brands complement patents in securing the returns from technological innovation: The case of Bayer Aspirin. Klaus, Jennewein, Durand, Thomas and Gerybadze, Alexander. 3, 2010, Management international/Gestiòn Internacional/International Management, Vol. 14, pp. 73-86.

11. A history of aspirin. Connelly, Dawn. 26 September 2014, The Pharmaceutical Journal. The Official Journal of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.

Lígia Ernesto
Pharmacist | Affiliate Member at Nova SBE Health Economics & Management KC

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