Johnson & Johnson will stop selling talc-based baby powder globally

Johnson & Johnson will stop selling its talc-based baby powder globally and replace the product with its existing cornstarch-based version starting next year, the consumer products giant announced Thursday.

The move comes later thousands of lawsuits of women in recent years who have claimed to have used the powder have given them either ovarian cancer or mesothelioma, a cancer that strikes the lungs and other organs. The company insists, and medical research on talc also indicates, that the baby powder is safe and does not cause cancer.

Johnson & Johnson decided to withdraw the product due to “misleading publicity about talc litigation that has caused global confusion and unfounded concern,” a company spokeswoman said.

The New Jersey company said demand for its talcum powder has declined, which also prompted the switch. Company officials said the move will simplify Johnson & Johnson’s product selection and respond to changing global trends.

Johnson & Johnson stopped selling its talc-based baby powder in the United States and Canada in 2020.

Last summer, a group of Black women complained against Johnson & Johnson, claiming the company marketed its baby powder to black women for decades despite knowing it contained ingredients that can cause ovarian cancer. This lawsuit – from the National Council of Black Women – comes about three years after a Missouri court ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $4.7 billion in damages to women in a similar case. This amount was later reduced to $2.1 billion.

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Talc is a mineral similar in structure to asbestos, which is known to cause cancer, and they are sometimes mined from the same mines.

In 2020, the company recalled 33,000 bottles of baby powder after FDA regulators found a small amount of asbestos in a bottle purchased online. Later that year, Johnson & Johnson said that 15 tests from the same vial of baby powder carried out by two laboratories engaged by the company did not find any asbestos.

A US government analysis of 250,000 women, the largest study of its kind to look at the issue, found no strong evidence linking baby powder to ovarian cancer, although the author principal of the analysis described the results as “highly ambiguous”.

Last fall, the company created a spin-off subsidiary named LTL Management to handle all of its talc claims. LTL Management subsequently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. in a move that some say was intended to delay the settlements of the various lawsuits. Johnson & Johnson said it has paid about $2 billion into a trust fund set up to pay claims the bankruptcy court determines it owes.

Johnson & Johnson also said last fall it would spin its consumer health business – which sold baby powder, Band-Aid plasters and other products – into a separate, publicly traded company. The part of the business that sells prescription drugs and medical devices will retain the J&J name.

Johnson & Johnson shares fell nearly 1% early Friday morning, to around $165 apiece. Still, the stock has performed better than the Dow Jones Industrial Average, of which J&J is a member, for most of this year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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