Johnson & Johnson JNJ has decided to permanently discontinue the sale of its talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder in the United States and Canada. The company said that the demand for the product has been declining, which it blamed on “misinformation around the safety of the product” amid a barrage of legal challenges.
J&J faces more than 19,000 lawsuits for its talc-based products, primarily its baby powders. Lawsuits have been primarily filed in state courts in Missouri, New Jersey and California, as well as outside the United States. The lawsuits allege that its talc products contain asbestos, a known carcinogen, which caused many women to develop ovarian cancer.
The product accounts for approximately 0.5% of J&J’s total U.S. Consumer Health business. J&J markets two types of Johnson’s Baby Powder – talc-based and cornstarch-based. J&J said that the corn starch-based powder will continue to be available in North America. Also the talc-based product will still be sold in markets other than the United States and Canada. J&J announced the decision as part of a portfolio assessment related to the coronavirus pandemic.
J&J’s stock has risen 2.2% this year so far against a decrease of 0.7% for the industry.
We remind investors that in early October, J&J voluntarily recalled one lot of its Johnson’s Baby Powder. The recall was initiated following tests done by the FDA, which revealed traces of asbestos in samples from one bottle purchased online. J&J, later said that tests conducted by third-party labs on the same bottle of Johnson’s Baby Powder that was previously tested by the FDA found no asbestos
There have been verdicts against J&J in its talc lawsuits. In 2018, J&J was ordered by a Missouri court to pay $4.7 billion in damages to 22 women who made such allegations, affirming a St. Louis court jury’s verdict given earlier. J&J has appealed the decision
J&J has consistently denied allegations and insisted thattalc-based products are safe and do not cause cancer. However, the issue has been weighing on the stock price for some time now.
The link between talc and cancer has been rumored for decades but remains scientifically unproven. It has been suggested that a link between talc and cancer may be due to the fact that talc and asbestos often occur together in deposits and get inadvertently mixed.
J&J has a Zacks Rank #4 (Sell).
Some better-ranked stocks in the large-cap pharma are Eli Lilly LLY, Pfizer PFE and AbbVie ABBV. While Lilly and AbbVie sport a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), Pfizer has a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.
Lilly’s earnings estimates have gone up by 0.6% for 2020 and by 1.3% for 2021 over the past 30 days. Lilly’s stock is up 19.2% this year so far.
AbbVie’s earnings estimates have risen 17.4% for 2020 and 6.6% for 2021 over the past 30 days. AbbVie’s shares are up 3% this year so far.
Pfizer’s earnings estimates for 2020 have risen 0.4% over the past 30 days
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