Reuters- Facing off against a plaintiff’s lawyer for the first time about Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder, the company’s Chief Executive Alex Gorsky earlier this month insisted that the company’s iconic brand was safe.
“We unequivocally believe that our talc and our baby powder does not contain asbestos,” Gorsky testified in a deposition in a case involving a retired Indiana college professor who alleges his cancer was caused by the Baby Powder he used for decades.
Gorsky, citing “thousands of tests and studies” to support his testimony, said: “I’m not aware of our baby powder or talc containing asbestos.”
Just 13 days after his deposition, the US Food and Drug Administration told the healthcare giant it had discovered asbestos, a known carcinogen, in a bottle of Johnson’s Baby Powder. A day after getting the full FDA test results, J&J recalled 33,000 bottles of Baby Powder in the United States. It marked the first time the company has recalled Baby Powder for possible asbestos contamination and the first time US regulators have announced finding asbestos in the product.
The recall is the latest blow to a healthcare conglomerate that has for many years tried to project an image as a caring company. It is now facing thousands of lawsuits over a variety of products, including legal action by more than 15,000 consumers claiming its talc powders caused their cancers.
J&J, however, stands behind the safety of its talc and said it’s investigating the FDA test result. The company said it proceeded with the recall “out of an abundance of caution.”
Internal company records, trial testimony and other evidence show that from at least 1971 to the early 2000s, the company’s raw talc and finished powders sometimes tested positive for small amounts of asbestos, the Reuters investigation found. Company executives, mine managers, scientists, doctors and lawyers fretted over the problem and how to address it, while failing to disclose it to regulators or the public.
In a brief conference call with analysts and journalists, J&J officials called the FDA test results “extremely unusual,” and suggested the sample may have been contaminated by an outside source or come from a counterfeit bottle.
A few hours later, the FDA shot back with a defense of its laboratory analysis, saying it wasn’t aware of “any records pointing to counterfeit Johnson’s Baby Powder in the US market.” -PR