‘Johnson & Johnson knew for decades about asbestos in its baby powder’

Jermaine Castillo
December 15, 2018

Using court documents in the ongoing legal battle over J&J's talcum powders, Reuters reported that from 1971 to the early 2000s, J&J's managers, doctors and others communicated internally about certain talc tests turning up positive with asbestos, but they didn't disclose the results to regulators. Reuters-along with attorneys for more than 11,000 plaintiffs now suing Johnson & Johnson, claiming the company's products caused their cancer-examined memos, internal reports, and other confidential documents as well as deposition and trial testimony.

Reuters cited documents released as part of a lawsuit by plaintiffs claiming the product can be linked to ovarian cancer. Thousands more cases against the company are still pending.

In July, a Missouri jury ordered J&J to pay $4.9bn in a case involving 22 women and their families.

J&J has been defending its key product for several years against lawsuits that have been piling up alleging the product causes ovarian cancer and mesothelioma.

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The Reuters report and the documents it refers to are available online here.

"Simply put, the Reuters story is an absurd conspiracy theory, in that it apparently has spanned over 40 years, orchestrated among generations of global regulators, the world's foremost scientists and universities, leading independent labs, and J&J employees themselves".

However, the Reuters report indicated that most testing reports did not find the presence of asbestos in J&J products.

The Reuters investigation comes in the backdrop of the multiple lawsuits that the company is now facing - where more than 9,000 plaintiffs have alleged that its talc baby powder products contain asbestos and caused ovarian and other cancers.

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As Reuters points out, the CEO's statement doesn't address whether the company's talc previously contained asbestos.

The decline in shares wiped off about $24bn from the company's market capitalisation, and made the stock the biggest drag on the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 indexes.

Johnson & Johnson strongly rejected the claim describing it as as "one-sided, false and inflammatory" and insisted the product is entirely safe.

The Reuters report says that J&J failed to inform the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that at least three tests from three different labs carried out between 1972 and 1975 had found asbestos in the brand's iconic baby powder product.

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