Dr Stewart Adams OBE, the man who discovered ibuprofen, died on January 30, aged 95. He leaves an extraordinary legacy: an estimated 20,000 tonnes of ibuprofen is now manufactured annually, with sales in the USA alone worth several billion dollars. For Boots, his employer, his discovery was a game-changer, helping the company expand globally.
Stewart Adams was born in 1923 in Byfield, Northamptonshire. He left school at the age of 16 and began his career as an apprentice at Boots March store, before being awarded a scholarship by Boots to study at University College, Nottingham. He graduated with a BPharm degree in 1945, whilst working in Boots Day and Night store on Wheeler Gate, Nottingham.
His first position upon graduating was in Boots penicillin plant on Daleside Road, Nottingham. After two years he moved to Boots Research Department and took up a research scholarship at Leeds University of Pharmacology, completing his PhD in 1952.
His search for a new treatment for rheumatoid arthritis began the following year. Because of war damage in a city centre his first laboratory was a group of converted houses in West Bridgford.
On February 3, 1969, some 16 years and 20,000 compounds after Dr Adams began working on the project; Boots launched ibuprofen as a prescription medicine under the brand name Brufen, indicated for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. By 1980 it was the UK’s leading anti-inflammatory treatment. It became the first major POM to P switch in 1983, with Dr Adams playing a major role in the accompanying PR campaign.