The Gerovital story begins somewhere in the middle of the twentieth century. Ana Aslan, then aged 52, taught at the Faculty of Medicine of Timisoara and studied procaine, a local known anesthetic. Over the years, many doctors had acknowledged some surprising effects: joint pain stopped, white hair regained color and skin quality improved. But observations were only scattered, coming particularly from surgeons.
Ana Aslan was the first to consider procaine's potential in the fight against aging. She used it more to treat arteritis and in peripheral circulation disorders, but she wanted to expand her study to cases of rheumatism. In the spring of 1949 the opportunity arose.
“On April 15, I met a young medical student who suffered from severe osteoarthritis, a crisis that lasted three weeks. His knee was immobilized and every move caused agonizing pain. The medication he was taking only relieved his suffering short-term.” She chose to administer a solution of 1% procaine in the femoral artery. She managed, and after a few minutes the young man lifted his foot and bent it several times. Shortly thereafter, he left the hospital. „Shock and interest were so great that I gave up an academic career - which I devoted myself to body and soul - to devote my attention to the study of this substance.”
After two years, Ana Aslan began a long-term experiment on animals and a clinical study on 25 elderly patients, treated with procaine injections, and found their overall improvement. Among the many successful examples that have demonstrated the effectiveness of the treatment was the case of a patient aged 110 years. After four years of treatment, the hands and head stopped shaking, he could walk on his own, he had a healthy appetite, his white hair regained color and depression was replaced by a better mental state.
Satisfactory results prompted the teacher to seek a composition that potentiated the beneficial effects of procaine and continued research with pharmacist Elena Polovrageanu. They decreased procaine's pH from 4.5 to 3.3, and therefore stabilized it and prolonged the action on the body before entering the hydrolysis reaction (normally is eliminated from the body in about an hour). Finally, they reached a composition of 2% procaine, benzoic acid 0.12%, 0.10% potassium metabisulphite, 0.01% disodium phosphate, pH of the mixture ranging between 3 and 4 values. Ingredients were added to the procaine were antioxidant agents and stabilizers. It remained in the body over six hours and exceeded the effects of anesthetics. Clinical evaluation of 7600 patients taking Gerovital led to the approval in 1957 and moving to mass production in the form of ampoules, and five years later in the form of tablets and therapeutic creams and hair lotions.
In time, things changed for the worse: Ana Aslan attracted the antipathy of Elena Ceausescu (the reason was Ceausescu’s jealousy on Ana’s title of academician Professor) and the lack of hot water and poor food the country was facing, affected the image of the institute. In 1978, the Communist Party asked her to pay 1.5 million lei, which represented the value of hospital charges that she didn't perceive to the elderly and poor. After seven years of trials started in 1981, and only five months before she died, Ana Aslan prevailed. At that time, Ana Aslan’s method of treatment brought 17 million dollars annually to the Romanian state.
Who was Ana Aslan? Ana Aslan was born on January 1, 1897, in Braila, in a large family: she had five brothers. At 16, she dreamed of becoming a pilot and flew a small airplane, and at high school graduation, because of her mother’s opposition to become a doctor, she went on hunger strike. Finally, in 1922 she graduated from the Faculty of Medicine and then he worked at several hospitals until 1952, when with the support of one of her mentors, Dr. CI Parhon, she became director of the Institute of Geriatrics in Bucharest, a position she held until May 19, 1988, when she died at the age of 91.
Her fame has spread worldwide, and the collection of letters she received at the institute contains 130,000 songs from 123 countries (the letters reached their destination even when the envelope just wrote Professor Ana Aslan, Romania).
In the medical world, the Gerovital opinions were divided: there were voices that said that Gerovital is one of the most important inventions in medicine, but also there were opponents. The bitterest opponents have called the products Zerovital. A study conducted in 1975, entitled „Effects of a procaine preparation (Gerovital H3) in hospitalized geriatric Patients: a double-blind study”, showing that the research conducted on a group of 63 patients aged between 45 and 83 years, found no physical and mental improvements.
Despite her opponents attempts to denigrate her, numerous celebrities, politicians and artists sought her Gerovital treatment. Charlie Chaplin, Marlene Dietrich, Kirk Douglas, Omar Sharif, Lillian Gish, the Gabor sisters, U.S. President John F. Kennedy, French President Charles De Gaulle, Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev, Prime Minister of the Republic of India Indira Gandhi, West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong, Vietnamese Chairman Ho Chi Minh, Serb President Josip Broz Tito and Salvator Dali are among the numerous personalities that visited her institute in Bucharest and enjoyed Gerovital’s benefits.
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