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How Old Is Advil?

I am a big fan of "That was then, this is now" type stuff. For instance, I am 42 and I often wonder if my children view me the same way I viewed my parents when they were in their 40s. If the cliché rings true, and 40 is the new 30 etc., my hope is that I am just a smidgen cooler than they were.

Now, I love my parents, but if that isn't the case, then I will be pretty sad.

I have spent some time in libraries of late, and my wife made the suggestion that I make something of my time as I wait for a child to select a book. She thought it would be fun to choose a space of time in life and compare it to the present and then write about it.

I do not know about you, but even if my wife has a great idea, I always harrumph it out of the gate. Then, a day later, I try it -- and most often like it.

So, here we are.

I am a child of the '80s, so I thought it would be fun to see what was happening 30 years ago to the day.

The first challenge was resources. The New York Times online archives does not allow you to view whole issues after 1981. This is true even if you are willing to spend money. Odd but true.

I wanted a broad view of what was going on in the world, so I checked with the library, which said it is only available on microfiche (or microfilm -- what's the difference, again?).

My library's problem? No micro-fiche/film. Who has that stuff anymore outside of college libraries? I am not even sure they would have it.

I could Google things like the top song of that week or top movie, but that's just too easy.

So I decided on a compromise. I put in for the specific date in an online periodical search. Date, New York Times and no keyword. This produced only five results, hardly reflecting the zeitgeist of May, 1984, but I figured if that's my consistent search criteria, then I can stick with it until I troubleshoot a way to access an entire issue without making a 30-minute drive.

In the May 19, 1984 edition of the New York Times, I discovered one thing that for some reason interested me. On that day, the Times reported on how ibuprofen was approved by the FDA for nonprescription sale.

Crazy, right?

I thought Advil had been around since the introduction of penicillin. Nope. Thirty years old. It's younger than the Rubik's Cube!

The best line in an otherwise sleepy piece on it was the author referring to acetaminophen as "relatively new." That got a chuckle.

When you think of innovation, whether it be technological or otherwise, the pace is generally unnerving. Even though breakthrough drugs are less common these days, it was a bit of a shock at how young something so ubiquitous as Advil actually is.

Today, over the counter medication is nearing a $70 billion business, and the market specific to pain relievers like Advil is now about $4.5 billion. Back in 1984, it was less than $1.5 billion.

My arthritic ankle thanks the FDA for that.

Hopefully, I can make it a little sexier than anti-inflammatories, but expect more '80s minutiae in the near future.

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