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Stewart Adams (1923–2019), inventor of ibuprofen, used himself as test subject

by Kirk Fox

“I always felt it was important to take the first dose.”

Stewart Adams was a British chemist who led the team that developed ibuprofen. The anti-inflammatory painkiller is today one of the most commonly used drugs of its kind. Adams got his start as a pharmacist’s apprentice at the large U.K. pharmacy chain Boots. He went on to work in their research department, initially working on the team that was producing penicillin. His creation of ibuprofen came out of a search for a better drug to treat rheumatoid arthritis. 

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Died: January 30, 2019 (Who else died on January 30?) 

Details of death: Died at the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham, England at the age of 95. 

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His own guinea pig: Adams always tried out the drugs he developed on himself. “I always felt it was important to take the first dose before asking others to do so,” he said in a 2012 interview with Trends in Pharmacological Sciences. The very first ibuprofen dose he tried was taken at a much needed moment: He was preparing to give an important speech at a conference, but he had a bit of a hangover after a night out with friends. So he took 600 mg of his new drug—three standard pills—and “found it was very effective,” he told the BBC in 2015. 

Notable quote: “It’s funny now, but over the years so many people have told me that ibuprofen really works for them — and did I know it was so good for hangovers? Of course I had to admit I did.” —Adams in a 2007 interview with The Telegraph 

What people said about him: “Not only did he have an amazing achievement with the invention of ibuprofen, but he was a genuinely nice guy. We’re incredibly proud of the fact that it was here in Nottingham that he invented ibuprofen, which continues to bring pain relief to people across the world. We recognized this significant contribution by making him an Honorary Freeman of the City in 2013, and his legacy lives on with ongoing groundbreaking scientific and medical work in Nottingham.” —John Collins, Nottingham City Council leader 

Full obituary: BBC 

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