Abstract The kinetics of oxidation of a non-steroidal analgesic drug, aspirin (ASP) by diperiodatocuprate(III)(DPC) in the presence and absence of osmium(VIII) have been investigated at 298 K in alkaline medium at a constant ionic strength of 0.10 mol dm −3 spectrophotometrically. The reaction showed a first-order in [DPC] and less than unit order in [ASP] and [alkali] for both the osmium(VIII) catalysed and uncatalysed reactions. The order with respect to Os(VIII) concentration was unity. The effects of added products, ionic strength, periodate and dielectric constant have been studied. The stoichiometry of the reaction was found to be 1:4 (ASP:DPC) for both the cases. The main oxidation product of aspirin was identified by spot test, IR, NMR and GC–MS. The reaction constants involved in the different steps of the mechanisms were calculated for both reactions. Activation parameters with respect to slow step of the mechanisms were computed and discussed for both the cases. The thermodynamic quantities were also determined for both reactions. The catalytic constant ( K C) was also calculated for catalysed reaction at different temperatures and the corresponding activation parameters were determined.