Johnson & Johnson takes out full-page ads in major newspapers promising its baby powder is ‘safe’ after scathing report revealed its links to cancer – and claimed the company knew
- A Reuters investigation found Johnson & Johnson staff from 1971 to 2000 knew its baby powders sometimes tested positive for asbestos
- The World Health Organization has listed asbestos-contaminated talc as a carcinogen since 1987.
- The company’s shares dropped 10 percent on Friday, which wiped out about $40 billion of its market value, making it J&J’s worst day in a decade
- J&J took out full-page ads in newspapers including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal on Monday
- The ads promise its talcum powder is safe and points to ‘independent studies’ that corroborate the claims
Johnson & Johnson scrambled to contain fall out from a report that revealed the company knew its baby powder had links to cancer.
On Friday, Reuters revealed that healthcare conglomerate knew for decades that small amounts of cancer-causing asbestos were lurking in its talc.
In response, J&J took out full-page newspaper ads defending its product and practices since investors erased tens of billions of dollars from the company’s market value.
A full-page ad headlined ‘Science. Not sensationalism.’ ran in newspapers including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal on Monday.
The ad asserted that J&J has scientific evidence its talc is safe and beneficial to use, saying: ‘If we had any reasons to believe our talc was unsafe, it would be off our shelves.’
Johnson & Johnson took full-page ads headlined ‘Science. Not sensationalism.’ in newspapers including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal after a report revealed the company knew that its baby powder had links to cancer
Reuters’ investigation found that most tests in past decades found no asbestos in J&J talc and talc products.
However, tests on Baby Powder conducted by scientists at Mount Sinai Medical Center in 1971 and Rutgers University in 1991, as well as by labs for plaintiffs in cancer lawsuits, found small amounts of asbestos.
In 1972, a University of Minnesota scientist found what he called ‘incontrovertible asbestos’ in a sample of Shower to Shower, one of the powder products
Other tests by J&J’s own contract labs and others periodically found small amounts of asbestos in talc from mines that supplied the mineral for Baby Powder and other cosmetic products into the early 2000s.
The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer has listed asbestos-contaminated talc as a carcinogen since 1987.
Reuters’ report, which examined company memos, internal reports and other confidential documents, said J&J knew about the problem for decades.
The company did not report to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) three tests by three different labs from 1972 to 1975 that found asbestos in the company’s talc.
Johnson & Johnson knew for DECADES that asbestos lurked in…
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J&J rebutted Reuters’ report in a lengthy written critique of the article posted on the company’s website and a video from Chief Executive Alex Gorsky.
The company said Reuters omitted information it supplied to the news organization that demonstrated the healthcare conglomerate’s Baby Powder is safe and does not cause cancer.
J&J also said its Baby Powder has repeatedly been tested and found to be asbestos-free and that the company has cooperated with the FDA and other regulators around the world to provide information requested over decades.
‘Since tests for asbestos in talc were first developed, J&J’s Baby Powder has never contained asbestos,’ Gorsky said in the video. He added that regulators ‘have always found our talc to be asbestos-free.’
A Reuters spokeswoman on Monday said the agency ‘stands by its reporting.’
J&J shares fell nearly three percent on Monday, closing at $129.14 in New York Stock Exchange trading.
That drop was on top of the 10 percent plunge that wiped out about $40 billion of the company’s market value following the report.
The ad J&J ran in newspapers on Monday also pointed to an online talc fact page the company created with ‘independent studies from leading universities, research from medical journals and third-party opinions.’
That website has changed since early December, according to a Reuters review of online archives.
For instance, the website no longer contains a section headlined ‘Conclusions from Global Authorities’.
As recently as December 5, it listed organizations including the FDA, the European Union and Health Canada as among entities that have ‘reviewed and analyzed all available data and concluded that the evidence is insufficient to link talc use to cancer.’
Senator Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, sent a letter on Friday to the FDA.
The letter called on the agency to investigate the findings in the Reuters report to determine whether J&J misled regulators and whether its Baby Powder products threaten public health and safety.
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