Thursday, 17 January, 2019

J&J Bulls Play Defense After Rout, Dismiss Talc Report as Rehash

Melissa Porter | 15 December, 2018, 02:27

The documents also depict successful efforts to influence USA regulators' plans to limit asbestos in cosmetic talc products and scientific research on the health effects of talc, the report states.

Shares of Johnson & Johnson JNJ.N fell 10 percent on Friday and were on track to post their biggest percentage drop in more than 16 years, after Reuters reported that the pharma major knew for decades that cancer-causing asbestos lurked in its Baby Powder. Among them were 6,000 women with ovarian cancer.

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.

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.

Reuters reviewed documents, deposition, and trial testimony from at least 1971 to the early 2000s that they say showed powders and raw talc sometimes tested positively for small traces of asbestos.

The World Health Organisation now recognises no safe level of exposure to asbestos. The company has won several recent court cases allaging liability and damages, and is appealing other judgments, including $4.6 billion awarded in July to 22 women who claimed its product caused their ovarian cancer.

Their lawyer Mark Lanier called for the company to pull its talc products from the market "before causing further anguish, harm, and death from a awful disease".

In one case, the company commissioned and paid for a study, told the researchers their desired results and then hired a ghostwriter to redraft the article presenting the findings. "Simply put, the Reuters story is an absurd conspiracy theory".

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.

In its statement Friday, Johnson & Johnson said "thousands of independent tests by regulators and the world's leading labs prove our baby powder has never contained asbestos". The company said that it has fully cooperated with the Food & Drug Administration and other global regulators over decades, and used the "most advanced testing methods available" to ensure that its cosmetic talc is asbestos-free.

Then, in 1992, three years after J&J sold its Vermont mines, the new owner, Cyprus Minerals, said in an internal report on "important environmental issues" in its talc reserves that there was "past tremolite" in the Hammondsville deposit.