J&J Recalls Lot of Baby Powder After Asbestos Trace Found
(Bloomberg) -- Johnson & Johnson is recalling one lot of its Johnson's Baby Powder after tiny amounts of asbestos contamination were found in samples from a single bottle purchased online.
J&J is voluntarily recalling the lot, #22318RB, and encouraging people who bought the product to discontinue use. The company said that it is working with the Food and Drug Administration, which tested the bottle, and has started an investigation into how and when the product was contaminated.
J&J shares fell as much as 3.7% to $131.10 in early trading. The stock has been under pressure as investors try to ascertain the company's potential liabilities in a series of lawsuits related to talc and other products.
"Thousands of tests over the past 40 years repeatedly confirm that our consumer talc products do not contain asbestos," J&J said in a statement on Friday. A representative for the New Brunswick, New Jersey-based company couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
J&J is looking into whether cross-contamination of the sample caused a false positive, whether the product was appropriately sealed and maintained in a controlled environment, and whether the product was a counterfeit.
Chief Financial Officer Joseph Wolk said on a Tuesday earnings call with investors that the company wouldn't set aside any legal reserves for the more than 100,000 lawsuits it faces across its portfolio of drugs, consumer products and medical devices, saying it expects to fight and win many of the claims.
"The management team here will look at what a reasonable outcome could be for all stakeholders involved," Wolk said. "When products are safe, when they're effective, we're going to look to make sure that those products aren't subject to what's become unfortunately a big business model for plaintiff's attorneys."
J&J has already settled some of the lawsuits in which plaintiffs claim they were given cancer by the talc-based personal care products, but thousands remain. Baby Powder-related liabilities could eventually cost the company as much as $5 billion, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.
Lawyers for women who blame their cancers on asbestos-tainted talc powder contend internal J&J documents indicated officials knew since the 1970s that powder mined in places such as Vermont and Italy contained trace amounts of asbestos, but failed to alert consumers or regulators. Asbestos is often found intertwined with talc.
Mark Lanier, who persuaded a St. Louis jury last year to hit J&J with a $4.7 billion verdict on behalf of more than 20 women who said they developed ovarian cancer through long-term use of the company's talc-based products, said he doesn't expect this to be the last time that its talc will be found to contain asbestos.
"This confirms thousands of tests" over the years that have uncovered asbestos in J&J's Baby Powder, he said.
Chris Placitella, a New Jersey lawyer who recently won a $37.2 million verdict in a talc case brought against J&J in its home city of New Brunswick, said the company's own documents show they've known there was asbestos in its Baby Powder for at least four decades.
"This finding confirms exactly what multiple juries have found based upon internal testing done by Johnson & Johnson and what Johnson & Johnson has been denying for more than 40 years.
J&J said in February that it had received subpoenas and inquiries on its iconic baby-powder products from the U.S. Justice Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Spokesman Ernie Knewitz said at the time the company would cooperate with the inquiries.
(Updates share price in third paragraph and adds context throughout)
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Crayton Harrison at [email protected], Timothy Annett
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LOS ANGELES (Legal Newsline) - Officials for Johnson & Johnson and attorneys representing plaintiffs suing the company for alleged asbestos-tainted baby powder both vowed on Tuesday to continue litigating after two recent verdicts went against
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