A pharmacist from Macedonia invented a drug some 70 years ago that has been a long-running favorite in the Balkans ever since. This Macedonian miracle weapon is called Caffetin, and its inventor came from Gevgelija.
One can also confidently say that this drug is one of the most famous and widely used Macedonian products. Maybe even as one of the best-selling products from Macedonia! That’s quite spectacular. Usually the exact opposite direction is the Macedonian export hit par excellence: liquor, wine and delicious delicacies.
Caffetin is particularly popular in the areas of the former Yugoslavia, and has been for almost seven decades! But the tablets were also available in pharmacies in other countries, including Russia, Bulgaria and Romania (during Yugoslavia era).
But few people know who the inventor of Caffetin is – and that Caffetin is a Macedonian product.
Angel Simov from Gevgelija
This is Angel Simov, born in Gevgelija in 1935 (died in 1998). He was a pharmacist, full professor and one of the founders of the Department of Pharmaceutical Technology in Macedonia.
Simov is the author of the textbook “Pharmaceutical Technology” and other scientific and professional works. He was a long-time director of the pharmaceutical company “Alkaloid” in Skopje and was responsible for modernizing the production process and opening up new sectors for the production of medicines.
Angel Simov is also one of the founders of the Pharmaceutical Chamber of Macedonia and was its president from 1996 to 1998, as well as president of the Macedonian Pharmaceutical Society (1974–1976).
In an article by Prof. Nenad Dikić for the Serbian Telegraph, interesting facts from clinical pharmacology are revealed about the great scientists of pharmacology from the former Yugoslavia.
If I didn’t allow myself to study clinical pharmacology again, I wouldn’t even think about the people who developed a drug. I knew that people from the territory of the former Yugoslavia managed to discover many substances that were later used in pharmacy, but I did not believe that some of them created drugs that defined an entire era – says Dikić in introduction.
He mentions the inventor of vitamin C, Albert Szent-Györgyi, who was born in Vojvodina. After a visit to the Pharmacological Institute in Szeged that bears his name, Dikić discovered that he was a Hungarian scientist from the autonomous ex-YU republic of Vojvodina.
The situation is similar with the two Nobel Prize winners from Croatia, Leopold Ružička (Nobel Prize 1939, also known as Lavoslav Stjepan Ružička) and Vladimir Prelog (Nobel Prize 1975), who achieved their greatest success in Switzerland. Their research paved the way for significant discoveries in pharmaceuticals, but they did not actually develop a single drug.
The first person from these areas to patent a world drug was Franjo Kajfež, whose discovery of Diazepam (Apaurin, 1964) brought him not only world fame but also great wealth.
And when it seemed that no one could get close to this group of scientists, I discovered Angel Simov, who invented Caffetin in 1957. Most would not put his invention on the same level as the work of the scientists mentioned above, but it seems that his medicine is unique because of this. Namely, he didn’t find any substance, but he managed to combine four substances and achieve a pain-relieving effect that no one had achieved before. And as far as I have followed it, not even after him – explains Dikić.
In his opinion, Angel Simov’s approach was genius. Namely, he combined a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug – Propyphenazone, an opiate analgesic – codeine, caffeine and paracetamol.
The resulting combination immediately demonstrated its synergistic value, as it soon became the best-selling drug of the pharmaceutical company Alkaloid and at the same time a brand by which it is still known today. And even the range has been expanded.
Maybe that’s why it’s packaged in gold packaging. It is gold not only for Alkaloid, but for the entire Macedonian economy. Because, Caffetin is one of the strongest Macedonian export product brands. If all the Caffeine bands produced since 1957 were added together, the band would be almost 180,000 kilometers long and the total amount would be more than 5,000 tons. Typically, one coffee contains an average of 100 milligrams of caffeine, and five million coffees were distributed through the sale of Caffetin alone.
However, the greatest praise for a drug seems to be the care it provides to our citizens living abroad. Those who stock up on Caffetin at home because they don’t want to change their usual medication despite the huge selection of painkillers abroad. The fact is that this will remain the case for a long time, as codeine is subject to a special regime in many Western countries and is never used in a combination of drugs such as caffeine – this is the conclusion of Prof. Dr. Nenad Dikić from Singidunum University in Belgrade, Serbia, in his column for Telegraf.rs.
As a small side note, in 2022 Caffetin has been awarded as a “super brand” in Serbia. This was, among other things, the reason for Dikić’s column in the Serbian media.
As you have already learned from the story, Alkaloid is a Macedonian pharmaceutical company. The beginnings go back to 1936, with the first processing plant in Skopje when work began on August 15, 1936.
You might not believe it, but the first 15 workers produced the painkiller opium. Macedonia was considered one of the largest opium suppliers at that time, and Macedonian opium was also one of the best. Especially the strongest, with the most morphine units!
After the Second World War, production increased and technology was significantly modernized. The product range was also expanded. One of the most important factors is the increasing level of qualifications of the employees, which has steadily improved over time. For its positive results, Alkaloid received a nationwide award as the best factory in Yugoslavia.
Alkaloid opened a new plant in 1957, which produced medication in tablet form for the first time – precisely because of Caffetin, invented by Simov.
From then on, the number of employees increased continuously. More and more qualified chemists, pharmacists and technologists found their way into the company, which then continued to expand. Alkaloid also expanded its collaboration with major pharmaceutical companies in France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and the United States.
The rapid development positioned Alkaloid among the five largest pharmaceutical companies in Yugoslavia. At that time the company had over 2,800 employees. An important employer for Skopje and also for all of Macedonia.
After the collapse of Yugoslavia, Alkaloid was transformed from state ownership into a joint stock company with mixed ownership in 1990. Five years later the company was privatized. Since 1998 all owners have been private individuals.
You read it over and over again, if you have any questions ask your pharmacist. Because we are not pharmacists, but have written about the product, we simply include the information leaflet here. So that you can get an idea about the medication.
What is Caffetin made of?
- Paracetamol 250 mg
- Propyphenazone 210 mg
- Caffeine 50 mg
- Codeine phosphate sesquihydrate 10 mg
What is Caffetin?
Medication in tablet form
How does Caffetin work?
Caffeine is a combined analgesic.
The painkilling effect has been proven for paracetamol, propyphenazone and codeine, while caffeine is an excipient that improves the effect of other ingredients.
Caffeine is used to relieve a variety of pains such as headaches, toothaches, migraines, neuralgia, sciatica, muscle pain, postoperative, post-traumatic and menstrual pain.
This is the official information that Alkaloid presents on their official website.
Caffetin range expanded
Previously, since 1957, until some 15 years ago, there were only the “classic” Caffetin. The range, or let’s say the brand, has now been expanded.
In addition to the classic “golden Caffetin”, various Caffetin Cold products are offered. As the name suggests, tablets (or granules) against colds and flu.
According to the current status, these are: Caffetin Cold and Caffetin Cold Plus (the latter available as tablets or granulate powder).
In addition, Alkaloid introduced Caffetin Menstrual as tablets.
For a while, the golden Caffetin was also available as Forte, SC or Light. These have now been taken out of the range, but some are still available abroad.