Reuters Report Spells More Trouble for J&J

In December, the Reuters News Agency published a major report which homed in on the fact that Johnson & Johnson executives knew about asbestos contamination in the company’s talc for decades yet told no one.

And now, the fall-out begins.

More Trouble for J&JDrug inspectors in India were among the first to react, seizing samples of Johnson & Johnson’s famous Baby Powder from a factory in Baddi, intent on testing them to determine whether there is indeed asbestos present.

“On the basis of the news report, we are alerting staff to pick up samples. We will test them in a drug control lab here,” regional drug officer Surendranath Sai told Reuters.

It seems investors aren’t too happy with the latest revelations either. Reports show that J&J lost $50 billion in market value after the report was released. The company has also announced share buyback plans of up to $5 billion, Reuters notes in an article released earlier today.

Much of the negative publicity surrounding Johnson & Johnson and its talc-based products came about after a jury awarded $4.7 billion to 22 women with ovarian cancer in a trial that concluded this past July. All the women had been long-time users of J&J’s talc products.

Many began using baby powder during childhood and continued well into adulthood. They had no other exposure to asbestos. That case is now on appeal.

J&J has been successful in some appeals, failed in others. Nonetheless, the negative publicity has certainly drawn attention to the many inter-company memos that surfaced during trials, hinting at the fact that there was plenty of awareness within J&J that there might be an asbestos problem.

The Reuters exposé sealed the deal, with both product users and investors starting to doubt the safety of talc products that have long been staples of the American household.

Time will tell how much Johnson & Johnson will be affected by these realizations.

Reports show that there are already about 11,000 pending lawsuits filed against the company by talcum powder users that are now suffering from either ovarian cancer or mesothelioma. And who can blame them for taking the next step and going after J&J?

After all, it looks like the proof is now in the pudding…or, in this case, the talc.