Johnson & Johnson said it plans to stop selling its talc-based baby powder products worldwide by 2023, a move that comes amid ongoing legal battles and years after the company discontinued the product in the US and Canada.
J&J said Thursday it had made the “commercial decision” to switch all of its baby powder products to cornstarch instead of talcum powder after an assessment of its portfolio. The health conglomerate, which claims the product is safe, has been facing lawsuits for nearly a decade accusing it of hiding cancer risks that have tied its talc-based baby powder.
“We are continuously evaluating and optimizing our portfolio to best position the company for long-term growth,” spokesperson Melissa Witt said in an emailed statement. “Today’s decision is part of a global portfolio review, which evaluated several factors, including differences in demand for our products across geographic regions and changing consumer trends and preferences.”
Shares of the New Brunswick, New Jersey-based company were up less than 1% in post-market trading and were down 2.3% through Thursday through Thursday this year.
In May 2020, as J&J went through thousands of lawsuits accusing the product of causing cancer in some users, the company withdrew its talcum powder from the US and Canadian markets, citing another “commercial decision” based on declining sales.
“After decades of selling talc-based products that the company knew could cause deadly cancers in unsuspecting women and men around the world, J&J has finally done the right thing,” said Leigh O’Dell, a lawyer for former talk users, in an email. statement Thursday. “They stopped selling in North America more than two years ago. The delay in taking this step is unforgivable.”
Talcum powder has long been used in baby products because the mineral keeps the skin dry and prevents diaper rash. However, the mines that produce the powder may also yield asbestos, a mineral once used in products such as building insulation that researchers have linked to cancers. Some consumer companies have found that cornstarch can provide the same benefits as talc without the risk of asbestos.
J&J said Thursday that its “position on the safety of our cosmetic talc remains unchanged.”
The health conglomerate has spent years looking for ways to curb its legal obligations. It faces 40,300 lawsuits in the US over its talcum powders, according to a company that filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission last month.
J&J last year sought bankruptcy protection for its newly formed LTL Management LLC unit after alleging it was struggling to contain the lawsuits.
$2 Billion Trust
The company put $2 billion in a trust as part of the unit’s bankruptcy to settle all current and future talk claims. In February, a judge said the case could be continued to seek settlements, but his ruling is being appealed.
Lawyers for former talk users have challenged J&J’s move to have the unit seek Chapter 11 protection to deal with the talk unit. A federal appeals court in Philadelphia will hear plaintiffs’ arguments on Sept. 19 that the move amounted to a “bad faith” bankruptcy filing because they allege J&J’s financial position was not threatened by the talk disputes.
In court files, J&J’s attorneys noted that the company encountered stumbling blocks in developing a global settlement of the talc cases and faced mounting legal costs. The drugmaker’s attorneys noted that it has paid more than $1 billion in legal fees in the talk cases over the past five years and faced inconsistent jury verdicts.
J&J has so far been forced to pay about $3.5 billion in settlements to resolve talc cases, according to the company’s bankruptcy filings. A 2018 jury verdict from the state court in St. Louis eventually forced J&J to pay $2.5 billion to 20 women who had used the baby powder for their ovarian cancer. Both the Missouri Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to overturn the verdict.
Meanwhile, J&J plans to spin off its consumer health business into a standalone company next year in a move that legal experts say could help isolate liability should the Chapter 11 vehicle fail.
The case is LTL Management LLC, 21-30589, US Bankruptcy Court, District of New Jersey (Trenton).
(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and was generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)