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JJ to stop sale of talc-based baby powder amid cancer claims

Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson has succumbed to pressure and announced that it will cease global production of talc-based baby powder from 2023.

The decision follows numerous court cases that linked the product to cancer.

The product has been claimed to contain asbestos, a cancer-causing agent.

The company said in a statement dated August 11, 2022, that it would stop production of talc-based baby powder and instead transition to cornstarch.

Johnson & Johnson said the decision was commercial. "As part of a worldwide portfolio assessment, we have made the commercial decision to transition to an all cornstarch-based baby powder portfolio," the statement said.

"As a result of this transition, talc-based Johnson's Baby Powder will be discontinued globally in 2023."

It said cornstarch-based baby powder is already sold in countries around the world. "We remain fully committed to ensuring Johnson's products are loved by parents and families for years to come."

The company, however, said its position on the safety of its products, in this case, talc-based baby powder, remains unchanged.

"We stand firmly behind the decades of independent scientific analysis by medical experts around the world that confirms talc-based Johnson's Baby Powder is safe, does not contain asbestos, and does not cause cancer," it said.

Johnson & Johnson stopped the sale of talc-based baby powder in the United States (US) and Canada in May 2020 due to reduced demand, which it attributed to 'misinformation' around the safety of the product.

The company is said to be facing over 21,000 lawsuits.

It said it will continue to evaluate and optimise its portfolio to best position the business for the long term.

"This transition will help simplify our product offerings, deliver sustainable innovation and meet the needs of our consumers, customers and evolving global trends," the statement said.

The decision to cease talc-based powder is a definite sign the lawsuits facing the pharmaceutical giant have been wearing it down commercially, considering the amounts being awarded as settlements by those who argued that the product contributed to their cancer diagnosis.

In October last year, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, LTL Management LLC, filed for bankruptcy.

Pile of claims

The decision, according to a statement by LTL Management LLC, was necessary to resolve the pile of claims related to the cosmetic talc "in a manner that is equitable to all parties, including any current and future claimants".

The bankruptcy filing in October came a few months after the US Supreme Court declined to overturn an award of over $2 billion (Sh238 billion) on claims that the powder led to some women being diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

The statement said that to demonstrate its commitment to resolving the cosmetic talc cases and remove any financial objections to the process, Johnson & Johnson had agreed to provide funding to LTL for the repayment of amounts the bankruptcy court determines is owed by LTL.

Johnson & Johnson baby powder is arguably the company's most famous product whose users are majorly babies and women, the latter using it for beauty purposes.

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