After billions spent on litigation, J&J dumps talc powder

Aug. 12, 2022

Johnson & Johnson has announced that the company's flagship and highly litigated talc-based JOHNSON’S Baby Powder will be discontinued globally in 2023.

The company, which will transition to cornstarch-based baby powder, is positioning the announcement as a business decision. As part of a "worldwide portfolio assessment," J&J said it is "optimizing" its portfolio for growth. "This transition will help simplify our product offerings, deliver sustainable innovation, and meet the needs of our consumers, customers and evolving global trends," said the company in its statement.

Yet, J&J is facing tens of thousands of legal cases — 40,300, according to a recent SEC filing — from people who allege its cosmetic talc caused cancer. According to a financial report, the company spent $1.6 billion on talc litigation in 2021 and $3.9 billion on talc litigation in 2020.

Last year, J&J made waves for a legal maneuver, dubbed "Texas two-step bankruptcy" often used to help drive a settlement of personal injury claims. Through this, J&J created a subsidiary to manage thousands of legal claims alleging its cosmetic talc caused cancer — and promptly placed it into Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Through it all, the company has not budged on the safety of its cosmetic talc and this was echoed in the recent announcement as well. "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."