Johnson & Johnson shares drop after asbestos report

The Reuters investigation comes in the backdrop of the multiple lawsuits that the company is now facing - where more than 9,000 plaintiffs have alleged that its talc baby powder products contain asbestos and caused ovarian and other cancers.

It said nearly 12,000 plaintiffs were suing the company, claiming that its talc caused cancer. The documents, says Reuters, show company executives and scientists discussing how to address the issue, but not disclosing it to health officials or consumers.

However, the Reuters report indicated that most testing reports did not find the presence of asbestos in J&J products. Juries in those cases awarded big sums to plaintiffs who blamed the talc products for causing their mesothelioma, a type of cancer.

The company said Friday there were rigorous tests showing the talc did not contain the cancer-causing mineral.

Thornton Law Firm LLP is investigating potential violations of the federal securities laws on behalf of purchasers of the securities of Johnson & Johnson (NYSE ticker: JNJ) regarding recent revelations that J&J knew about asbestos in its baby powder and talcum powder products dating back several decades.

Johnson & Johnson have called Reuter's story "one-sided, false and inflammatory", writing in a statement that their baby powder "is safe and asbestos-free".

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Johnson & Johnson's stock fell US$14.84 ($20.66), or 10 per cent, to close Friday at US$133 ($185.19), its most severe single-day decline since 2002.

J&J were sued in 1999 by Darlene Coker, who believed that her terminal mesothelioma, a form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, was caused by using baby powder.

Johnson & Johnson has denied the claims in the Reuters report, branding it "an absurd conspiracy theory".

According to Reuters, the documents also depict successful efforts to influence United States regulators' plans to limit asbestos in cosmetic talc products and scientific research on the health effects of talc.

"This is all a calculated attempt to distract from the fact that thousands of independent tests prove our talc does not contain asbestos or cause cancer", Ernie Knewitz, J&J's vice president of global media relations, wrote in an emailed response to the report.

Reuters found the company was aware of trace amounts of asbestos since at least 1971. Any suggestion that Johnson & Johnson knew or hid information about the safety of talc is false.

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