Johnson & Johnson has announced it will immediately stop the distribution of its baby talcum powder in the USA and Canada. According to The New York Times, this decision comes as a result of slumping sales due to a series of lawsuits, which alleges that the talc-based product has caused ovarian cancer in women after prolonged use.
Johnson & Johnson Sales Have Plummeted
In the past three years, the company's sales of its signature baby powder have dropped 60% in the past three years. The drop is due to a series of lawsuits and FDA testing has shown traces of asbestos in some of the company’s products, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Years of bad news has resulted in billions of dollars in damages awarded to plaintiffs and the resulting loss of popularity with the product.
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, J&J said in a statement, according to Reuters.
Ovarian Cancer Claims Mount
The decision comes right after a New Jersey U.S. District Judge Freda Woldson ruled that scientific experts on talcum powder for plaintiffs could testify before juries. The ruling can have testimony admitted to over 16,000 lawsuits, according to The New Jersey Law Journal. In a major setback for Johnson & Johnson, the first federal judge to rule on the reliability of plaintiffs’ experts testifying about whether talc-based baby powder causes ovarian cancer has admitted them in potentially more than 16,000 lawsuits.
To date, Johnson & Johnson is facing roughly 19,400 lawsuits concerning their talc-based products. In 2019, the company came under investigation by the U.S. government to investigate the claims. In April, a federal judge then ruled that plaintiffs' cases can move forward using scientific experts who could testify on behalf of plaintiffs, a move Johnson & Johnson had been pushing to exclude from cases.
In recent years, Johnson & Johnson has lost several trials, including a 2018 case where the company was ordered to pay $4.7 billion in damages to 22 women alleging the products were the cause of their cancer, according to Bloomberg. The company is currently appealing this verdict, as well as several others. Johnson & Johnson continues to allege their products are safe.
FDA And Other Federal Regulators Step In
In 2019, the company responded to U.S. regulators who found the baby powder tested positive for asbestos. J&J responded, saying several tests run on the same sample by the company had shown no signs of the known carcinogen in their product.
According to a variety of sources such as trial testimonies and company records, from as early as 1971, there have been reports of the companies talc and other powders having on multiple occurrences tested positive for asbestos, according to a Reuters special report.
While the company has decided to discontinue shipments, they have not issued a recall and will continue to sell the current stock on store shelves and will continue to sell other cornstarch-based baby powders in the USA and Canada.
This discontinuation is also part of an overall trimming of the product line of roughly 100 products. This is to focus on better selling products such as Band-Aid bandages, Neutrogena skin care, and other products.
Another factor in the decision is a need to scale down products to adhere to social distancing practices due to the Covid-19 crisis.
Even though the J&J talc-based Baby Powder is no longer on the market, expect claims to continue against the company. Those who have used the product and have later developed ovarian cancer may need to consult with an attorney for the latest information regarding the status of further lawsuits against the company.