Johnson & Johnson announced plans to stop selling its heritage talc-based baby powder products internationally in 2023, despite ongoing legal fights and years after the product was withdrawn in the United States and Canada.
Following an assessment of its portfolio, J&J said on Thursday that it has made the “commercial choice” to convert all of its baby powder products to utilize cornstarch instead of talcum powder. For over a decade, the health company has been facing lawsuits accusing it of concealing cancer risks associated with its talc-based baby powder.
“We constantly analyze and optimize our portfolio to best position the firm for long-term success,” stated spokesperson Melissa Witt in an email. “Today’s decision is part of a global portfolio evaluation that took various aspects into account, including changes in demand for our goods across geographic regions and shifting consumer trends and tastes.”
Shares of the New Brunswick, New Jersey-based corporation increased less than 1% in after-hours trading and were down 2.3% year to date as of Thursday’s closing.
As J&J dealt with thousands of lawsuits charging the product of causing cancer in certain users, the firm removed its talc-based powders from the US and Canadian markets in May 2020, citing another “commercial decision” based on dwindling sales.
“After decades of marketing talc-based goods that the firm knew may cause devastating malignancies to unwary women and men all throughout the world,” Leigh O’Dell, a lawyer for former talc users, said in an emailed statement Thursday. “They ceased selling in North America almost two years ago.” The unjustifiable delay in taking this measure.”
Talcum powder has long been used in infant goods because it keeps skin dry and helps avoid diaper rash. However, the mines that create the powder can also produce asbestos, a material historically utilized in items like thermal facades that have been linked to cancer by studies. Some consumer industries have discovered that maize starch can provide the same advantages as talc while avoiding the asbestos danger.
According to J&J, its “stance on the safety of our cosmetic talc remains unaltered.”
The healthcare company has spent years looking for strategies to limit its legal liability. According to a business filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission last month, it faces 40,300 lawsuits in the United States over its talc-based powders.
J&J filed for bankruptcy last year for its newly formed LTL Management LLC business, claiming it was unable to keep the litigation at bay.
Trust Fund of $2 Billion:
As part of the unit’s bankruptcy, the firm deposited $2 billion into a trust to settle all current and future talc claims. A judge ruled in February that the action may proceed in order to obtain settlements, but his decision is being challenged.
Former talc users’ lawyers have questioned J&J’s decision to have the talc unit seek Chapter 11 protection in order to deal with the talc unit. A federal appeals court in Philadelphia will hear plaintiffs’ allegations on September 19 that the move amounted to a “bad faith” bankruptcy filing because the talc case did not imperil J&J’s financial status.
J&J’s attorneys stated in court documents that the corporation encountered stumbling blocks in negotiating a global settlement of the talc claims and faced growing litigation expenditures. The drugmaker’s attorneys stated that it spent more than $1 billion in legal expenses in the talc litigation over the previous five years and had to contend with uneven jury decisions.
According to the company’s bankruptcy papers, J&J has been compelled to pay over $3.5 billion in settlements to address talc complaints. A 2018 jury ruling in St. Louis state court required J&J to pay $2.5 billion to 20 women who developed ovarian cancer after using their baby powder. The Missouri Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court both refused to overrule the decision.
According to the company’s bankruptcy papers, J&J has been compelled to pay over $3.5 billion in settlements to address talc complaints. A 2018 jury ruling in St. Louis state court required J&J to pay $2.5 billion to 20 women who developed ovarian cancer after using their baby powder. The Missouri Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court both refused to reverse the decision.
Meanwhile, J&J intends to spin off its consumer health business into a separate company next year, which legal experts believe will help it isolate culpability if the Chapter 11 vehicle fails.
The case is LTL Management LLC, 21-30589, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of New Jersey (Trenton).