Johnson & Johnson stock took a hit earlier this month, amid concerns that documents being revealed in the course of recent talcum powder lawsuits could prove damaging to the company.
Johnson & Johnson stock price fell about 5% on February 5th, amid reports that company officials had been aware for decades that the talc used in its popular body powders – including the ubiquitous Baby Powder – contained asbestos and other cancer-causing heavy metals.
The reports stemmed from documents revealed in the course of lawsuits alleging that Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based powders caused mesothelioma, a deadly form of cancer linked to asbestos exposure.
The company is also facing thousands of talcum powder lawsuits filed on behalf of women who allegedly developed ovarian cancer related to the use of Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower for feminine hygiene purposes.
For its part, Johnson & Johnson denies that its talc-based powders have ever contained asbestos or any other cancer-causing materials.
“Johnson’s Baby Powder does not contain asbestos or cause mesothelioma or ovarian cancer, and we are confident that our talc products are, and always have been, free of asbestos, based on decades of monitoring, testing and regulation dating back to the 1970s,” the company’s vice president of media relations, Ernie Knewitz said in an email to Bloomberg News.
Johnson & Johnson is currently defending itself in the nation’s second trial involving the alleged link between Baby Powder and mesothelioma.
During opening statements on January 29th in New Jersey’s Middlesex County Superior Court, the plaintiff’s attorney pointed out that talc and asbestos naturally occur together. He further alleged that Johnson & Johnson made numerous unsuccessful attempts to remove asbestos from its talc in the 1970s.
“If you try so hard to get it out, it’s because it is there,” the lawyer said.
The attorney also told jurors that asbestos detected in the plaintiff’s tissue samples matched the type allegedly present in Baby Powder.
Johnson & Johnson prevailed in the nation’s first such trial, when a California jury found for the company in November.
Since February 2015, several talcum powder ovarian cancer plaintiffs have been awarded multi-million-dollar judgments in cases involving Johnson & Johnson’s products, with awards ranging from $55 million to $417 million. Recently, however, a judge in California overturned the $417 million verdict because of accusations involving juror misconduct and other issues.
A $72 million verdict awarded to an out-of-state plaintiff in Missouri’s talcum powder litigation was also tossed to comply with new standards set by the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Bristol-Myers Squibb v. Superior Court of California.