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Thursday, July 18, 2024 | Back issues
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Johnson & Johnson settles baby powder asbestos claims for $700 million

Besides the now-settled claims brought by 42 states and the District of Columbia, the company faces litigation waged by individuals who link the products to ovarian cancer.

WASHINGTON (CN) — Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson agreed Tuesday to pay over $700 million to settle a lawsuit accusing the multinational corporation of deceptive marketing practices regarding the safety of its baby powder and other products containing talcum powder. 

As part of the settlement with the attorneys general of 42 states and the District of Columbia, Johnson & Johnson agreed to stop the manufacture and sale of the talc products, which plaintiffs across the country have linked to mesothelioma and ovarian cancer diagnoses.

The pharmaceutical giant admitted no wrongdoing under the agreement and denies it violated the law.

D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb applauded the agreement, noting that Washington will receive over $3 million.

“District residents and customers nationwide deserve the truth about products they’re purchasing, especially products geared toward children,” Schwalb said in a statement. “With this bipartisan, multistage settlement, we’re holding Johnson & Johnson financially accountable for decades of harm inflicted on consumers through deceptive marketing tactics, and we’re ensuring that products that have been linked to serious health problems are no longer on the market.” 

Schwalb was joined by the Attorneys General of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

The states say Johnson & Johnson failed to disclose the presence of asbestos in the talc powder used in products such as “Johnson’s Baby Powder” and “Johnson & Johnson’s Shower to Shower.”

Soon after the coalition began the investigation that ultimately would reveal the asbestos, Johnson & Johnson stopped distributing and selling talc powder products in the U.S. and recently halted global sales.

According to the American Cancer Society, talc powder does not inherently cause cancer— any potential link is currently unclear — but powder containing asbestos, if inhaled, is generally accepted as cancer-causing.

There is little conclusive evidence that talc powder with asbestos is directly linked to ovarian cancer, the cancer nonprofit says, but some studies have reported a slightly increased risk. The fact that ovarian cancer itself isn’t common — approximately 238,484 women had been diagnosed as of 2021 — makes studying the issue a challenge.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, has classified the use of talc-based body powder near the genitals as “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” based on limited human studies. 

Johnson & Johnson faces similar class claims that link the use of its talc-based products to diagnoses of mesothelioma and ovarian cancer. That litigation is ongoing and was not part of Tuesday’s settlement.

According to the settlement agreement, the $700 million will be paid out in four installments of $175 million over the course of three years, with the first payment due July 30, 2024. The remaining three installments will each be due the same date in 2025, 2026 and 2027.

Washington will receive its $3.05 million in a similar four-installment plan, with the first portion of $759,322 due July 30, 2024, and the remaining three payments of $763,929 each due the same date the next three years. 

Johnson & Johnson did not respond to a request for comment on the settlement. 

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Categories / Consumers, Health, National

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