After a series of ups and downs in defense of its flagship Johnson's Baby Powder, Johnson & Johnson hit renewed scrutiny Friday as Reuters reported the drugmaker knew for decades its talc powder contained cancer-causing asbestos. Johnson & Johnson called the Reuters article "one-sided, false and inflammatory" and a "conspiracy theory".
The pharmaceutical company is facing thousands of lawsuits alleging that the product caused cancer, but J&J has always denied the allegations and insisted that the product is safe. In July, 22 plaintiffs were awarded $4.69 billion in damages after a jury found that J&J's talc products baby powder and Shower to Shower caused ovarian cancer.
Notably, the company's stock price fell by over 10 percent on Friday after the Reuters report.
The documents, which include deposition and trial testimony, allegedly show that from at least 1971 to the early 2000s, the company's raw talc and finished powders sometimes tested positive for small amounts of asbestos.
Johnson and Johnson said the mesh is supported by research, but thousands of women came forward claiming they had been left with "painful and life-altering complications", the ABC reported at the time. The "amphibole" types of asbestos (crocidolite, amosite, anthophyllite, tremolite, and actinolite) are rod-like and more durable in the body. However, there were internal reports dating as far back as the 1970s that noted that the corporation knew that a large amount of asbestos was found in the talc, but hid that information from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). "The company that was once America's biggest and most admired, the maker of power turbines, the seller of insurance, the broadcaster of "Seinfeld", has become a shadow of its former self", the Journal writes.
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J&J, based in New Brunswick, New Jersey, has dominated the talc powder market for more than 100 years, its sales outpacing those of all competitors combined, according to Euromonitor International data.
In fact, Reuters has cited internal documents in one of its reports, from the Johnson and Johnson's executive to a mine manager, a scientist, a doctor, and even a company's lawyer.
Numerous documents cited by Reuters are internal Johnson & Johnson correspondence by executives who debated the presence of small amounts of asbestos in talc, much of it mined in Vermont, and tried to persuade regulators that the amounts were tiny and not harmful.