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Johnson & Johnson: Key points on the asbestos report and stock slide

Johnson & Johnson’s (JNJ) stock fell over 8% in intraday trade on Friday after Reuters published a report stating that the company was aware that its baby powder contained the carcinogenic asbestos. The consumer products company has thousands of lawsuits pending over claims that its baby powder has led to cancer.

Here are some key points from the report:

# Reuters went through company memos, internal reports and other confidential documents, along with deposition and trial testimony, which showed that from 1971 to the early 2000s, J&J’s raw talc and finished powders tested positive for small amounts of asbestos occasionally and that the company did not disclose it to regulators or the public.

# The documents also show that efforts to influence the plans of US regulators to limit asbestos in cosmetic talc products and scientific research on the health effects of talc were successful.

# Several reports from J&J’s scientists and external labs identified contaminants in talc and finished powder products as asbestos or described them in terms typically applied to asbestos.

It’s a whopping $4.7 billion penalty for Johnson & Johnson in talcum powder case!

# In 1976, the US FDA was considering limits on asbestos in cosmetic talc products. During this time, despite at least three tests by three different labs from 1972 to 1975 finding asbestos in its talc, including a case of reportedly high levels, J&J told the agency that no asbestos was found in any sample of talc produced between December 1972 and October 1973.

Ernie Knewitz, J&J’s vice president of global media relations, wrote in an emailed response to Reuters’ findings, “Plaintiffs’ attorneys out for personal financial gain are distorting historical documents and intentionally creating confusion in the courtroom and in the media. This is all a calculated attempt to distract from the fact that thousands of independent tests prove our talc does not contain asbestos or cause cancer. Any suggestion that Johnson & Johnson knew or hid information about the safety of talc is false.”


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