Johnson & Johnson Stopping Worldwide Talc Based Baby Powder Sales
Johnson & Johnson is ending sales of all talc-based baby powders around the world in 2023. It has previously stopped selling the baby powder product in the United States and Canada in 2020. Many lawsuits have been filed against the company due to the talc-based product being contaminated with asbestos, leading to mesothelioma, lung, and other cancers. It will instead be using cornstarch in its flagship product, which is already being sold around the world. The announcement comes despite shareholders rejecting a proposed worldwide stoppage of selling the product. To stop selling the product, executives overruled its shareholders. The company states that it is continuously evaluating and optimizing its portfolio of products and the decision helps simplify product offerings, deliver sustainable innovation, and meet the needs of consumers.
Johnson & Johnson continues to affirm that talc is safe, even though it is stopping sales of talc-based baby powder. Different studies give varying results on the safety of talc-based baby powder. Some have found that women who regularly use the product have an increased risk of ovarian cancer while others show there is no risk. The company requested the Supreme Court to overturn a ruling that awarded $2.1 billion in damages to women who used talc-based baby powder. Another jury in New York awarded $120 million to a woman claiming her ovarian cancer was caused by talc contaminated with asbestos. Johnson and Johnson claimed its product was safe in 2020 when many lawsuits were filed against the company and blamed lack of sales to falling demand and misinformation.
There are still many lawsuits pending for Johnson & Johnson, which has a market share of $500 billion. A small portion of these are mesothelioma cases, a rare cancer caused by inhaled asbestos fibers. In 2021 alone, the company was facing $3.5 billion in talc litigation. Around $4 billion has been set aside for future cases. J&J created a new subsidiary, LTL Management LLC, to limit all liabilities from its talc lawsuits. The new company filed for bankruptcy immediately after it was created and listed its assets as $10 billion. This is supposed to make it easier to resolve the many lawsuits against the company.
It took a long time, but the bankruptcy plan was approved in 2022 by a federal judge in New Jersey. The bankruptcy filing created a $3 billion dollar trust fund for settlements but has also led to most pending lawsuits being put on hold. The bankruptcy reorganization process is being appealed by plaintiff lawyers and is being examined by Congress. The process Johnson and Johnson is using was legalized 30 years ago and has only been used a few times by companies trying to limit liabilities. The ending of talc-based sales could influence later court cases, but only if the bankruptcy filing is overturned.
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