As J&J Talc-Asbestos Story Continues to Explode, India Takes Major Action

Johnson & Johnson logo on outdoor sign

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As news continues about Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder containing carcinogenic asbestos, more than 100 drug inspectors in India are seizing samples, characterized The Times of India. The company, however, downplays that description, suggesting that the samples are fairly routine.

J&J has been the target of almost 10,000 lawsuits alleging that it and its talc product are linked to ovarian cancer. Talc is a naturally occurring mineral used in numerous products, including powder, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder.

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In May, J&J lost a major lawsuit when a jury sided with an elderly woman diagnosed with mesothelioma linked to her use of a J&J talc product. She was awarded more than $21 million in damages. And in July, a jury awarded almost $4.7 billion in damages to 22 women and their families after deciding that talc contributed to the development of ovarian cancer in the plaintiffs. Six of the plaintiffs died from the disease.

According to a Reuters analysis of internal company data, between 1972 and 1975, three separate laboratories identified asbestos in its talcum powder. Reuters described at least one of those cases having levels that were “rather high.” Despite that, J&J did not disclose that information to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The investigation also found that company executives, mine managers, scientists, doctors, and attorneys discussed how to address the problem while also failing to disclose it to regulators or the public.

In light of this most recent report, regulators in India have, according to the Times of India, seized samples of J&J’s talcum powder and raw material.

“A team of 100 drug inspectors has been assigned to examine different manufacturing facilities, wholesalers and distributors that make or sell J&J’s talcum powder in India,” an unidentified source told The Times of India. “The inspectors will start searches at 7 a.m. tomorrow (Wednesday) across the country. Samples of all brands of the powder will be collected and sent for testing.”

Apparently, the search operations were based on a decision made Tuesday evening in a meeting at the health ministry. The regulators will also inspect for compliance with all regulatory and manufacturing standards related to asbestos in any of its powder, and whether its products comply with India’s cosmetics standards.

J&J is also being litigated by the Indian government over faulty hip implants. The Health Ministry has ordered J&J to pay compensation ranging from $42,000 to $170,793 (Rs 30 lakh and Rs 1.2 crore).

In response to this news, Johnson & Johnson issued a statement, saying, “Today, a few of our facilities were visited by the CDSCO (Central Drugs Standard Control Organization) and local FDA authorities and we are fully cooperating with them by providing tests and samples. The characterization of these visits as ‘raids’ or ‘seizures’ is incorrect as has been reported in some instances. The tests have been conducted in the regular way that the FDA collects samples.”

The company also noted that Indian FDAs and the CDSCO have confirmed that its products “complied with Indian standards and are free of asbestos” previously.

When the news broke on Monday, J&J stock cratered, losing $40 billion in market value. The company indicated it plans to buy back up to $5 billion of its stock.

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