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Johnson & Johnson to end global sales of talc-based baby powder

CNA – Johnson & Johnson (J&J) will stop selling talc-based baby powder globally in 2023, the drugmaker said, over two years after it ended United States (US) sales of a product that drew thousands of consumer safety lawsuits.

“As part of a worldwide portfolio assessment, we have made the commercial decision to transition to an all cornstarch-based baby powder portfolio,” it said, adding that cornstarch-based baby powder is already sold in countries around the world.

In 2020, J&J announced that it would stop selling its talc baby powder in the US and Canada because demand had fallen in the wake of what it called “misinformation” about the product’s safety amid a barrage of legal challenges.

The company faces about 38,000 lawsuits from consumers and their survivors claiming its talc products caused cancer due to contamination with asbestos, a known carcinogen.

J&J denies the allegations, saying decades of scientific testing and regulatory approvals have shown its talc to be safe and asbestos-free.

Bottles of Johnson & Johnson baby powder line a drugstore shelf in New York. PHOTO: CNA

It reiterated the statement as it announced the discontinuation of the product.

J&J spun off subsidiary LTL Management in October, assigned its talc claims to it and immediately placed it into bankruptcy, pausing the pending lawsuits.

Those suing have said J&J should have to defend itself against the lawsuits, while defendants of J&J and the bankrupt subsidiary process say it is an equitable way to compensate claimants.

An attorney with the plaintiffs firm Keller Postman Ben Whiting said because the lawsuits are paused in bankruptcy, the company’s sales decision won’t immediately impact them. But if a federal appellate court allows the cases to move forward, the consumers could try to use J&J decision to pull the products as evidence, Whiting said.

“If these cases were to go again, then it’s a very big deal,” Whiting said.

Before the bankruptcy filing, the company faced costs from USD3.5 billion in verdicts and settlements, including one in which 22 women were awarded a judgement of over USD2 billion, according to bankruptcy court records.

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