Wednesday 23 October 2019

Johnson & Johnson shares drop as company denies it knew about asbestos in its baby powder for decades

Johnson and Johnson
Johnson and Johnson Business Desk Business Desk

Shares at Johnson & Johnson fell 10pc following the release of a disputed Reuters report which stated that the company knew for decades that its talcum baby powder supply contained asbestos.

Reuters said it had examined much of the thousands of pages of company memos, internal reports and other confidential documents J&J were compelled to share with lawyers.

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.

Reuters said that the evidence shows that J&J executives, mine managers, scientists, doctors and lawyers fretted over the problem and how to address it while failing to disclose it to regulators or the public.

Reuters said that J&J turned down repeated requests for an interview for more than two months. The company referred all inquiries to its outside litigation counsel, Peter Bicks.

In emailed responses, Bicks rejected Reuters’ findings as "false and misleading."

"The scientific consensus is that the talc used in talc-based body powders does not cause cancer, regardless of what is in that talc," Bicks wrote.

"This is true even if - and it does not - Johnson & Johnson's cosmetic talc had ever contained minute, undetectable amounts of asbestos."

He dismissed tests cited in this article as "outlier" results.

J&J has faced a wave of lawsuits alleging its talc baby powder products contain asbestos and caused ovarian and other cancers.

In July, a Missouri jury ordered J&J to pay $4.9bn in a case involving 22 women and their families. A judge affirmed the verdict in August and J&J vowed to appeal it.

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