The inventors of ibuprofen

Find out about the amazing healthcare products invented by Boots... including Ibuprofen - and meet the inventor.

Back in the 1950s, Boots scientists realised they had invented something groundbreaking: a painkiller that could be used in the treatment of a range of conditions from rheumatoid arthritis and muscle aches to mild headaches and menstrual pain. The painkiller became known as Ibuprofen.

The inventors of Ibuprofen

The invention of Ibuprofen arose out of a Boots study to treat rheumatoid arthritis before evolving into a drug to relieve a range of conditions.

Dr Stewart Adams was the project leader on the team which made the amazing discovery.

"We were convinced, on the basis of all the work we had done, that Ibuprofen would be both safe and effective," he recalls.

From the start, Dr Adams had set out to find a drug that would be better tolerated than aspirin - the main painkiller on the market at that time. However, it needed to possess similar capacities to reduce pain and inflammation.

Dr Adams began his work in a living room of a Victorian house on the outskirts of Nottingham - Boots' research department having been partially destroyed during World War Two bombing raids.

He and a technician meticulously calculated the compounds that would form the drug before they were joined by an organic chemist - Dr John Nicholson - who made them.

Ibuprofen was launched on to the market in 1969, with an over-the-counter version available from 1983. In 1987, Dr Adams received the OBE for his services to the drugs industry.

Dr Adams - now in his 80s - spent his life working at Boots, starting as a 16-year-old apprentice in store before taking a degree in pharmacy at Nottingham University, followed by a PhD at Leeds.

After the invention of Ibuprofen, he had the chance to move to a number of different companies. However, he chose to see out his career with Boots.

"Boots is a very ethical company and I have the greatest respect for them," he says.

Making medicines for over 160 years

But the invention of Ibuprofen is just one of many amazing products invented by Boots experts over the years. 

And now, many of our fantastic healthcare brands - like Repel insect repellent - are being brought together with several new products under the brand: Boots Pharmaceuticals. 

"With the launch of Boots Pharmaceuticals, we are going back to our heritage of innovation," says Paul Suggett, Boots' head of positive health. 

Having worked at Boots for more than three decades, Paul is well aware that Boots scientists have hardly rested on their laurels since the invention of Ibuprofen. 

"We are constantly innovating. We were the first to use a triple active for coughs and colds in our Daytime cold and flu relief product," he says.

The widest range of healthcare products on the market

But it's not just in flu and pain relief that Boots has broken new ground. Our expertise spans across a massive range of healthcare products. 

"Many people at Boots have worked here for a long time across different areas and have lots of expertise," says Paul. 

Our range covers healthcare items like First Aid and Repel insect repellent but also includes positive healthcare such as vitamins and supplements. 

"Positive health is a very big area for us," says Paul. "Again, this has its roots in Boots' history. We used to sell cod liver oil and echinacea in the 19th century and they are still popular today."

New areas of expertise

Our expertise is constantly taking us into new areas... such as helping men in the area of sexual wellbeing with our Myerex and Delay ranges. 

And Boots Pharmaceuticals offers a broad range of options. "When we did the research on men's sexual wellbeing, what men said was that they didn't want just isolated products," says Paul. "They wanted a range. Some products already existed, others - such as the Delay device - are the first of their type."

Quality approved by Boots experts

Throughout Boots' history, trust has been an important part of our name, with Jesse Boot asking Boots experts to quality approve products from as early as 1895. 

"Even back then, Jesse Boot insisted on quality control," says Paul. "Boots was one of the first pharmacies to set up a quality control lab. And Jesse's team of trained pharmacists used to reject anything that didn't meet their standards." 

Jesse Boots' high standards meant people trusted the healthcare products he sold. 

"It's definitely helped to build the Boots name," says Paul.

Trusted healthcare products

"Trust is really key for healthcare products," Paul adds. "People trust the brands that work for them. If you know that a certain medicine helps relieve your dry skin, you're not likely to change. It's very rare for people to experiment with health products the way they will, for example, with beauty products." 

That said there are many people who don't realise the amount of high-quality innovation by Boots Pharmaceuticals experts that takes place. 

"People always knew we were a chemists because they got their prescriptions from us," says Paul. "But they don't know our scientists and experts are constantly formulating and developing products." 

That message is set to become clear with the launch of Boots Pharmaceuticals.

Developed by Boots scientists

Today we have 180 scientists on site creating products and doing quality control. 

So what exciting innovations are Boots experts set to come up with next? 

"There's a lot set to happen over the next 12 months," says Paul. "We are looking at existing products and adding new features to them. We're very much directed by what Boots customers want. We have done a lot of research around what our customers are looking for and we are seeking to try to fulfil that in innovative ways."