In 1897 the Bayer chemist Felix Hoffmann discovered a new process for modifying salicyclic acid (a remedy for fever and inflammation which unfortunately has excruciating digestive side effects) to produce acetylsalicyclic acid (ASA). This compound was given the trade name Aspirin. Although the healing powers of salicylates (derived from willow bark) had been known for centuries, Hoffmann was the first to create a tolerable form of the compound and a reliable process for making it.
Hoffman’s supervisor, Chemist Arthur Eichengruen, enthusiastically recommended Aspirin be taken to market 1898. The Bayer Company, after cursory consideration, rejected it. Ostensibly, the objection was that Aspirin would have an “enfeebling” action on the heart. “The product has no value,” Hoffman’s boss pronounced confidently.
We now know that that the real reason Bayer initially rejected Aspirin was that its management was excited about another new product. Bayer was readying a major marketing effort behind their astonishingly effective new cough syrup. This was Heroin.