Published: Sat, December 15, 2018
Medical | By Vicki Mclaughlin

Johnson & Johnson shares drop after report says firm 'knew' of asbestos

Johnson & Johnson shares drop after report says firm 'knew' of asbestos

The company, in 1976, had assured the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that no asbestos was "detected in any sample" of talc produced between December 1972 and October 1973 when at least three tests by three different labs from 1972 to 1975 had found asbestos in its talc.

Reuters report also states that J&J denied the claim.

Shares in Johnson & Johnson have plunged more than 10 percent, after Reuters reported that the United States pharmaceutical giant had known about asbestos tainting its talcum powder for decades.

Reuters states that the number includes thousands of women with ovarian cancer.

In July, $4.7bn was awarded in total damages to 22 women in St Louis, Missouri, who said asbestos in Johnson & Johnson talc powder contributed to their ovarian cancer.

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.

The World Health Organisation now recognises no safe level of exposure to asbestos. In a major setback to the company, St. Louis jury in July had awarded almost $4.7 billion in total damages to 22 women and their families after they claimed asbestos in Johnson & Johnson talcum powder contributed to their ovarian cancer in the first case against the company that focused on asbestos in the powder.

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It said nearly 12,000 plaintiffs were suing the company, claiming that its talc caused cancer.

But a 2017 verdict in California, as well as other verdicts in Missouri, have been overturned on appeal, while challenges to another five verdicts are pending.

Reuters' report also showed the company had commissioned and paid for studies conducted on its Baby Powder franchise and hired a ghost writer to redraft the article that presented the findings in a journal.

J&J did not immediately return a request for comment, but the company has publicly maintained there is no science to back alleged links between its powder and cancer.

According to Reuters, the company also tried, unsuccessfully, to block regulations that lower the maximum level of asbestos allowed in talc-based cosmetics. To that point, the news service posted an excerpt of a statement in which employees wrote the company "cannot say "always" in reference to the product being asbestos-free.

'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.

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