Johnson & Johnson’s stock prices fell more than 10 percent – from $147 per share to $130 – after Reuters reported that an examination of the company’s internal documents revealed that J&J’s talcum powder was contaminated with cancer-causing asbestos and that the company took measures to hide this information from regulators and the public.
The consumer health care giant, facing more 11,000 lawsuits alleging its talc-containing products have caused cancers like mesothelioma and ovarian cancer, has continuously defended the safety of its products. And while J&J has won some of the cases, its losses have been substantial, including a $4.69 billion verdict awarded to 22 women who sued the company alleging its talcum powder products like Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower body powder contained asbestos and contributed to their ovarian cancer diagnoses.
The Reuters report was eye-opening. It stated that the company has been compelled to produce thousands of internal memos and reports dating back decades showing that the company knew the talc it was using in its products contained asbestos. In some cases, at “rather high” amounts. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), no amount of asbestos exposure is safe.
Asbestos can cause mesothelioma, a rare but deadly cancer that forms in the lining of the lungs, abdomen or chest. It can take up to 50 years for mesothelioma symptoms to present. Once diagnosed, the disease usually proves deadly within a year or two.
But J&J is fighting back against the bad press with a new print and online ad campaign that began running this week. The ad claims “Our talc is safe” and urges people to read the scientific data. “J&J offered numerous times to meet with Reuters in person to discuss with appropriate experts all its allegations,” the ad states, “and each time Reuters refused.”