Johnson & Johnson officials may already be wondering if past profits from its nearly ubiquitous Baby Powder will pay for the ongoing losses from lawsuits brought by cancer patients or their living relatives.
The company has faced thousands of lawsuits from women and/or their relatives after victims contracted ovarian cancer. Medical studies have shown that talc-containing personal hygiene products, such as Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder, can increase the risk of ovarian cancer as much as 30 percent for women who used the product in their genital area.
Talc particles can make their way through the reproductive system and land in the ovaries, where they can grow into cancerous tumors.
Juries have awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in verdicts to cancer victims across the country who sued Johnson & Johnson after contracting ovarian cancer.
Another line of litigation that has begun in recent months involves asbestos-contaminated talc. Documents revealed in trials showed that Johnson & Johnson and other companies knew for many years several talc mines had been contaminated with asbestos.
In those cases, victims contracted cancers such as mesothelioma after being exposed to talc-containing products.
Mesothelioma is an aggressive and deadly cancer that usually comes from inhaled or ingested asbestos fibers. The fibers attach to the lining of internal organs such as the lungs or heart and become cancerous, sometimes after many years of dormancy.
Asbestos, now restricted, was a common building material because of its sturdiness and fire-resistant qualities. It was used in concrete, ceiling and floor tiles, insulation and various automotive parts such as brake pads and gaskets.
Until the industry documents came to light, mesothelioma cases involving people who had been exposed to talc-containing products but not asbestos-containing materials didn’t fit normal patterns. Now, many cancer victims can understand where their cancer came from and who is responsible for it.
As if those lines of liability weren’t enough, Johnson & Johnson is now facing a third threat — investor lawsuits.
A Bloomberg story written by Jennifer Bennett notes that an investor class-action suit against Johnson & Johnson contends the investors lost money because of the revelations the company knew of the risks posed by its products but did nothing to alert the public or change the elements of its products. The suit has been filed in federal court in New Jersey.
According to the story, the investors claim “the company misled them about the decades-old link, repeatedly saying its talc products were asbestos-free and safe.” Negative media coverage coming from lawsuits against the company have led to stock price declines.
A spokesman for Johnson & Johnson dismissed the case as “baseless.”
“Johnson’s Baby Powder does not contain asbestos or cause mesothelioma or ovarian cancer, and we are confident that our talc products are, and always have been, free of asbestos, based on decades of monitoring, testing and regulation dating back to the 1970s,” Knewitz said. “Sample testing by independent laboratories, independent scientists, governmental agencies and academic institutions spanning decades have all confirmed the absence of asbestos in our talc products.”