J&J shares drop on report it knew of asbestos in baby powder

Now, thanks to a Reuters special report, we know that J&J was lying.

"Talc does not seem to be an issue that is going to resolve quickly for JNJ and we would expect shares to trade at a lower multiple pending further clarity on the company's exposure to this issue".

The documents Reuters got ahold of showed that scientists working at Johnson & Johnson or with outside labs found that there was sometimes a small amount of asbestos or used language typically used to explain the contaminant.

U.S. pharmaceutical and cosmetics group Johnson & Johnson saw its shares plunge on Friday after a media report alleged the group had deliberately concealed for decades that its baby powder sometimes contained asbestos. The cases include thousands of women with ovarian cancer.

"This is all a calculated attempt to distract from the fact that thousands of independent tests prove our talc does not contain asbestos or cause cancer", he told the news service.

The news agency said it showed the company, established in 1886, know of the positive tests, and that senior executives, mine managers, scientists, doctors and lawyers anxious about how to address the problem, while failing to disclose it to regulators or the public.

The awareness could go back to 1957, as a lab report discusses a finding that's in line with asbestos.

While most people exposed never develop cancer; for some, even small amounts of asbestos are enough to trigger the disease years later.

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"It is not surprising that an article from Reuters outlining years of potential knowledge regarding the perils of talc should agitate investors", BMO Capital Markets analyst Joanne Wuensch said.

In July 2018, a St. Louis jury awarded almost $4.7 billion in damages to 22 women and their families after they claimed asbestos in J&J talcum powder caused their ovarian cancer.

Reuters reports that the sum, which was awarded following more than five weeks of testimony, included $550 million in compensatory damages and $4.14 billion in punitive damages.

The 22 plaintiffs were the first to succeed with a claim that asbestos-tainted Baby Powder and Shower to Shower talc, a longtime brand the company sold in 2012, caused ovarian cancer, which is much more common than mesothelioma.

It added: "Johnson & Johnson will continue to defend the safety of our product".

Reuters said that J&J turned down repeated requests for an interview for more than two months.

A note on a statement for the company's website in 2013 acknowledged that it would be misleading to say that the talc-based products had "always" been asbestos free.

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