Why is Johnson and Johnson talcum powder being tested by Indian authorities?

Indian authorities are verifying the truth behind the allegations of carcinogens in Johnson and Johnson's talcum powder

Published: Friday 21 December 2018

There has been much drama around multinational toiletries maker Johnson and Johnson (J&J). There are strong allegations that talcum powder manufactured by J&J contain trace amounts of asbestos, which is a known carcinogen.

Now India's Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) and Food and Drug Administration is collecting samples from different locations across the country to verify whether their powder contains the banned substances. J&J has the maximum market share in the baby toiletries market.

A media report claimed that the company was aware of the presence of the carcinogen for decades. The report is based on the company’s internal documents, memos as well as depositions of cancer victims. On December 14, the companies shares dipped by more than 11 per cent after these internal documents were made public.

Between 1971 to early 2000s, a number of samples of the raw talc and finished powders had tested positive for asbestos. The first mention of contaminated talc was made as early as 1957 by a consulting lab.

However, this information was never disclosed to the public. J&J is facing some 10,600 liability lawsuits across the United States over its talc products.

Most cases involve people suffering from mesothelioma, cancer that affects internal organs. In July 2018, J&J was ordered to pay $4.7 billion to 22 women suffering from ovarian cancer.

The company has denied the allegations and called the media report one-sided and false. The CDSCO had tested their powder in 2016 and had found that it complied with Indian standards.

Earlier J&J was found guilty of faulty hip implants by the Indian government. In November 2018, the health ministry had devised a formula which could give Rs 30 lakh to Rs 1.23 crore as compensation to 277 patients with faulty hip implants. The company has challenged this compensation formula in the Delhi High Court.

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