Beasley Allen continues to fight for women who have been harmed by Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder products, and is condemning the company’s latest misdoing revealed by a recent Bloomberg report.
According to the media company, emails unsealed in a Mississippi lawsuit reveal Johnson & Johnson played a devious role in crafting an industry report used to persuade the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) against adding cancer warnings to the labels of talcum powder products.
The email exchanges between executives from Johnson & Johnson and Rio Tinto Minerals (later Imerys SA) reveal a shady affair. Both companies had a hand in selecting the scientists hired by the trade association Personal Care Products Council to produce a 2009 report assessing the health risks associated with talcum powder.
The emails also reveal that the researchers changed the report at the companies’ urging as well as added an executive summary that stated, “we conclude that the weak statistical associations cited in the petition do not support a causal relationship.” Some five years later, the FDA relied on that report when it denied a petition to require warnings on talcum powder products.
Johnson & Johnson and its talc supplier commissioned the report to help fend off numerous petitions by public health advocates through the years for federal regulators to mandate cancer warnings on talc products. The emails revealed that J&J had hand-picked the scientists to compile the report and suggested the companies submit it through the lobbying group rather than in their own names in an effort to “indirectly provide comments to the FDA” opposing the petitions.
For more than a century, Johnson & Johnson has claimed its Johnson’s Baby Powder was safe enough for newborns despite reports that company executives knew for decades that the company’s talc could become contaminated with asbestos, a known carcinogen. Furthermore, dozens of studies published in peer-reviewed journals during the past 25 years have shown a statistically significant association between talc use and life-threatening injuries.
Now the company faces nearly 40,000 lawsuits from consumers who claim asbestos and other impurities in the company’s talcum powder products have contributed to ovarian cancer and mesothelioma diagnoses.
Johnson & Johnson has since pulled its talcum powders from the U.S. and Canadian markets. Earlier this year, the company announced it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to avoid legal responsibility for the cancers tied to use of its products.
Beasley Allen attorneys have taken a lead in the Johnson & Johnson talcum powder litigation, with Leigh O’Dell serving as co-lead counsel of the plaintiff’s steering committee in the federal multidistrict litigation in New Jersey.
“This is about as shameful as it gets,” O’Dell said upon hearing of the company’s plans to file bankruptcy. “These women and their families have already suffered so much. … It’s time for Congress and the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate and outlaw the unfortunately common practice of cash-rich companies playing corporate shell games and weaponizing federal bankruptcy laws to avoid paying the victims they’ve hurt and misled.”