Published: Sat, December 15, 2018
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

Johnson & Johnson knew about asbestos in talc baby powder

Johnson & Johnson knew about asbestos in talc baby powder

Company executives, scientists, doctors and lawyers reportedly fretted over the problem and how to address it while failing to disclose it to the public.

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.

J&J had evidence from lab tests dating as early as 1971 that its talcum powder contained asbestos - and lied about the fact for years as it faced lawsuit after lawsuit from sick plaintiffs, according to a report by Reuters published on Friday.

Reuters says in an internal memo from 1976, one of the company's talc overseers also wrote that if stricter methods for testing talc became mandatory, the company would be "hard pressed in supporting purity claims".

In a trial combining the claims of 22 women, J&J this summer suffered its biggest defeat yet in the form of a $4.6 billion jury verdict; the company again said it would appeal.

Even when the FDA was weighing limits on asbestos in cosmetic talc products in 1976, J&J assured the regulatory body that none had been detected "in any sample" between December 1972 and October 1973.

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Following the report, the publicly traded company's shares plummeted by more than 11 percent.

It said nearly 12,000 plaintiffs were suing the company, claiming that its talc caused cancer. "Studies of more than 100,000 men and women show that talc does not cause cancer or asbestos-related disease", it said.

Bloomberg News reported in September 2017 that documents unsealed in a lawsuit showed that J&J has known for decades that its talc products include asbestos fibers and that the exposure to those fibers can cause ovarian cancer.

In a statement posted on its website, Johnson & Johnson described the Reuters report as "one-sided, false and inflammatory". Others have failed to reach verdicts, resulting in mistrials.

Shares in the company plunged 12 per cent following the release of the report by news agency Reuters, wiping £37bn ($47bn) off the company's value. "Thousands of independent tests by regulators and the world's leading labs prove our baby powder has never contained asbestos", the statement continued.

"Plaintiffs"€ attorneys out for personal financial gain are distorting historical documents and intentionally creating confusion in the courtroom and in the media, '€ Ernie Knewitz, J&J's vice president of global media relations said in response to Reuters.

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