In a report published by the Reuters on Friday, it is claimed that the US-based pharmaceuticals giant Johnson and Johnson was aware for decades that its baby powder contained asbestos. According to an investigation conducted by Reuters and an examination of documents, deposition and trial testimony shows that “from at least 1971 to the early 2000s, the company’s raw talc and finished powders have tested positive for small amounts of asbestos and the company’s executives, mine managers, scientists, doctors, had actively discussed the issue it while failing to disclose it to regulators or the public.”
The report also claimed that the company had paid for studies conducted on its Baby Powder franchise and hired a ghostwriter to redraft the article that presented the findings in a journal.
The company has been facing multiple lawsuits filed by almost 11,700 plaintiffs, many of whom are women who have been battling rare forms of lung or ovarian cancer due to the asbestos they have been exposed to from years of using the talcum powder, said the report.
Johnson and Johnson had initially declined to share company documents with the plaintiffs, but as the lawsuits began piling up, it was compelled to share thousands of pages of company memos, reports and internal documents, the Reuters report claimed.
In the month of July, in the first case against the company involving the asbestos issue, a fine of $4.7 billion was imposed on it in total damages to 22 women who had claimed that asbestos in Johnson and Johnson powder contributed to their ovarian cancer. A drop of 8.3% was recorded in the company’s shares after the Reuters report came out, A fall that is believed to have wiped out USD 30 billion from the company’s market value. A similar downfall in the shares of the company was also observed in February when the asbestos concerns were raised.
Denying the claims made in the Reuters report the company said that “any suggestion that Johnson & Johnson knew or hid information about the safety of talc is false.”A statement issued by J&J Vice President Ernie Knewitz said, “This is all a calculated attempt to distract from the fact that thousands of independent tests prove our talc does not contain asbestos or cause cancer”.
Johnson and Johnson is facing a lawsuit in India for selling faulty hip implants which affected the lives of 14,525 patients in India. The company had already withdrawn the product from other countries on complaints.