Facing thousands of lawsuits claiming its talcum powders have caused harm, Johnson & Johnson has argued that science is on its side and that its products do not contain asbestos. But documents filed in the ongoing legal saga, provided to FiercePharma, suggest some tests found asbestos and that the company debated internally about the issue.
Meanwhile, in a proposed class action filed Thursday, a J&J investor claims the company knew for decades that its talc products contained asbestos fibers and that exposure could cause cancers.
As of its last quarterly filing, J&J faces about 5,500 lawsuits claiming its talcum body powders caused harm, with many alleging the product caused ovarian cancer. Some, such as a case brought by Tina Herford in Los Angeles, alleged the product contains asbestos and can cause mesothelioma. J&J prevailed in the Herford case last November.
A J&J representative told FiercePharma the company is “confident that our talc products are, and always have been, free of asbestos, based on decades of monitoring, testing and regulation dating back to the 1970s.”
“Historical testing of samples by the FDA, numerous independent laboratories, and numerous independent scientists have all confirmed the absence of asbestos in our talc products,” she added.
The court documents—sent by plaintiff’s attorneys in the liability litigation—challenge that assertion. Two internal memos date from the 1970s, and testimony provided in the case last year concerns talc samples studied that same decade.
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