Healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson says it will continue to sell its talc-based Johnson's Baby Powder in the United Kingdom and the rest of the world, despite stopping sales in the U.S. and Canada. In March it chose to stop shipping hundreds of items of the controversial product line.
Stores around the country and in Canada will continue to sell whatever remaining inventory of baby powder remains on their shelves, the company said.
The decision was the first to find Johnson & Johnson's baby powder with talc led to a person being diagnosed with mesothelioma. We probably would have waited a couple of months otherwise.
The firm is facing 20,000 lawsuits claiming that that the powder causes cancer. Juries across the U.S. have hit the company with billions of dollars in actual and punishment damages over their handling of the product. J&J has been ordered to pay costly jury verdicts, but each verdict that has made it through the appeals process so far has been overturned, the company notes.
The revelation of these company documents also prompted inquiries by the Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as congressional committees and authorities in MS and New Mexico. Since the start of this year, the shares had gained 2.2 per cent through Tuesday's close.
Apart from the baby powder controversy, the company revered by millions of consumers and one of the most trusted brands in America, more recently has faced a series of legal and reputational challenges.
The company has consistently defended the safety of its talc products.
Johnson's Baby Powder now accounts for less than 1 per cent of the company's U.S. consumer-health revenue. Talc is often mined near asbestos, but since the 1970s, talc used in all consumer products has been required to be asbestos-free.
The company said its cornstarch-based baby powder will be its only offering in North America, while other countries will still have access to the talc-based product.
"It means no more little girls are going to go through what we went through", said Kim, who started using baby powder when she was 10 years old. As of a recent quarterly filing, J&J faced 19,400 lawsuits alleging harm from talc.
In a statement Tuesday, Ted Meadows, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said the company "did today what they should have done decades ago".
That has opened up the company to a variety of other massive lawsuits over its role in the nation's opioid crisis. The move to discontinue sales "puts a fence around the litigation for them". The firm hadn't disclosed the switch until Bloomberg News asked about it. J&J previously owned Shower to Shower but sold it to Bausch predecessor Valeant Pharmaceuticals International.
"Demand for talc-based Johnson's Baby Powder in North America has been declining due in large part to changes in consumer habits and fueled by misinformation around the safety of the product and a constant barrage of litigation advertising", the company said.