J&J to Pull Talc Baby Powder from North America

  • J&J to Pull Talc Baby Powder from North America (c) GVictoria/ShutterstockJ&J to Pull Talc Baby Powder from North America (c) GVictoria/Shutterstock

As lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson (J&J) claiming its iconic baby powder causes cancer continue to mount, the US healthcare giant has announced plans to pull the talc-based powder from the North American market and market only cornstarch- based powder in the region, which it said now accounts for only 20% of sales.

Outside the US and Canada, New Jersey-headquartered J&J will continue selling the talc-based powder alongside the cornstarch formulation.

As of March, 19,400 personal injury lawsuits related to claims that talc can cause ovarian cancer or mesothelioma were pending in North America, the group said in a quarterly filing.  J&J has won some of the litigation, and is also appealing verdicts against it, including a high-profile case from 2018 in which it was ordered to pay $4.7 billion in damages to 22 women.

Pointing to what it called “misleading litigation advertising,” the healthcare group said “decades of scientific studies by medical experts around the world support the safety of its product, and that it will continue to “vigorously defend it, its safety and the unfounded allegations against it.”

In March, as part of its response to the Covid-19 pandemic, J&J said it had stopped shipping certain products, including the baby powder, to focus on high-demand over-the-counter medicines such as its Tylenol brand paracetamol and its mouthwash Listerine and to allow workers in production and distribution to practice social distancing.

The decision to halt sales of the talc-based powder comes on the heels of a state judge’s decision to allow five expert witnesses for the plaintiffs to testify in court on talc safety (alongside three J&J experts), the New Jersey Law Journal said.

While J&J did not indicate whether it would make any changes in its approach to the litigation – such as pursuing out-of-court settlements – lawyers for the plaintiffs, targets of its criticism, said they would keep bringing cases to trial around the US.

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