Breaking News- JNJ Will Suspend Baby Powder Sales in U.S.

Jane Akre
May 19, 2020

Mesh Medical Device News Desk, May 19, 2020 ~ Johnson & Johnson will stop selling its talcum-based Baby Powder in North America and Canada.

The company cites concerns over ongoing lawsuits concerning claims the powder contains asbestos and causes ovarian cancer in women who used it genitally.

So far a number of trials have delivered multimillion-dollar compensatory awards to the women or to their estates, most of that being punitive damages. Most recently a jury awarded $4.7 billion to 22 women who suffered from ovarian cancer, allegedly from their talcum powder use.

In a statement Tuesday, JNJ said the talcum powder will "continue to be sold in other markets around the world where there is significantly higher consumer demand for the product.  Importantly, Johnson & Johnson remains fully committed to its Johnson's Baby brand."

JNJ, a healthcare conglomerate, continues to claim that its talcum powder does not contain asbestos, even though it is mined in nearby areas. See Mesh News Desk, on where talc is mined.

In recent years, the company was facing in excess of 19,000 claims that its powders caused ovarian cancer and mesothelioma, also linked to asbestos exposure.

The company will continue to sell its talcum-based powder elsewhere around the world.

Some Cases So Far

Not all trials have resulted in overwhelming wins for injured women.

In August 2017, a California jury decided that J&J's talcum powder was linked to a woman's ovarian cancer and delivered a $417 verdict, the bulk being punitive damages.  Eve Echeverria had end-stage ovarian cancer and died after the trial ended. Her case was later dismissed.

The jury was shown internal company documents that J&J knew there was some question about its talcum powder.

Jacqueline Fox was awarded $72 million by a St. Louis jury in February 2016. She died two years after her diagnosis and her son took over as the plaintiff.  JNJ later won a reversal of her verdict.

Jere Beasley (Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles) told The National Law Journal that plaintiffs had internal documents from 1997 that showed the company knew nine studies existed that showed the link of its talcum powder to cancer. A letter from a former consultant warned the findings could compare the talc industry to cigarettes which Beasley called a “devastating document.

Shower-to-Shower was marketed to women for feminine hygiene. “Just a sprinkle a day keeps odor away,” was the slogan. The product was sold to Valeant Pharmaceuticals International in 2012.

The problem with talc is it can be contaminated with asbestos fibers. Talc is mined from the soil and can contain magnesium, silicon, oxygen and hydrogen, used to absorb moisture.  There is more on talc reported by the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep here.

Gloria Ristesund of South Dakota used Johnson's Baby Powder for nearly 40 years. She developed ovarian cancer and a Missouri jury awarded her $55 million in May of 2016. That verdict too was tossed on jurisdictional grounds following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that cases must be brought where the plaintiff lives or the company does business.

Last year J&J recalled a 33,000 bottle shipment of baby powder after the FDA found some evidence of asbestos in one of the bottles.

In recent years, the company was facing in excess of 19,000 claims that its powders caused ovarian cancer and mesothelioma, also linked to asbestos exposure.

The decision is a huge setback for J&J which relied on the gentleness of baby powder to soften its company image, though it only represents 0.5% of the total U.S. consumer business.

Sales will continue in the U.S. until retailers run out of the product and cornstarch baby powder will continue to be available. #


MND coverage of talc powder cases

MND, Latest $417 Million Case Against J&J Tossed, October 21, 2017

MND, $72 Million Talc Case Tossed on Appeal, October 18, 2017

MND, SCOTUS Decision Forces Talc PL out of MO Court, September 20, 2017

Post Courier report on Talcum Powder/Cancer Link

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