Shares of Johnson & Johnson (JNJ - Free Report) were up around 1% in after-hours trading on Tuesday after it announced that its “comprehensive investigation” conducted on the same bottle of Johnson’s Baby Powder that was previously tested by the FDA found no asbestos, a known carcinogen.
We remind investors that J&J faces more than 16,000 lawsuits for its talc-based products, which allege that the same contain asbestos, causing many women to develop ovarian cancer. In early October, J&J announced a voluntary recall of 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.
Coming back to the latest news, J&J said that a total of 155 tests were conducted by two different third-party labs using four different testing methods. The tests showed no asbestos in the same bottle that FDA’s contracted lab, Analytical Services, Inc. (AMA), had tested. Meanwhile, the company clarified that no trace of asbestos was found in the retained samples of the finished lot from which the bottle was produced. The tests were also done on samples from the same lot that was recalled as well as three lots each manufactured before and after the recall. All these tests also confirmed that the talc does not contain asbestos. In late October, J&J had released results of 63 independent tests and has now released the results of the 92 subsequent tests.
J&J blamed that the reason for the FDA’s test results was either contamination of the test sample or an error by an analyst at AMA’s lab. J&J said that its investigation into the AMA’s test results is now over and it has handed over its findings to the FDA
J&J’s stock have risen 6.3% this year so far compared with an increase of 5.9% recorded by the industry.
Regarding 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. In July this year, there were reports that the drug giant is facing criminal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice into whether it lied to the public about the possible cancer risks of its talc-based products and the company knew more details than it let on.
J&J has been consistently denying the allegations. It has maintained in public statements that its talc products are completely safe and do not cause cancer.
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.
Other than the talc lawsuits, J&J also faces thousands of other lawsuits related to abuse of its opioid-based drugs. These lawsuits claim that J&J is one of the several companies whose opioid-based drugs were responsible for fueling the state’s opioid epidemic. Other companies facing similar allegations are Teva Pharma (TEVA - Free Report) , Endo International (ENDP - Free Report) , Allergan and Mallinckrodt (MNK - Free Report) . In August 2019, J&J was ordered by a district court in Oklahoma to pay $572 million to the state in connection with a lawsuit filed by the latter. In October, J&J settled with two counties of Ohio for $10 million plus other cost reimbursements, in connection with the multi-district opioid case in Ohio. There are still a number of opioid-related lawsuits pending against J&J and others.
J&J also faces more than 13,000 similar lawsuits alleging that use of its antipsychotic drug, Risperdal causes enlargement of breast tissues in boys – a condition called gynecomastia. In October, a Philadelphia jury ordered J&J to pay punitive damages of $8 billion to a man who claimed that the use of Risperdal caused him to develop gynecomastia.
These lawsuits have raised uncertainty about the company. A group of analysts, however, believe J&J is strong enough to handle the legal issues.
J&J currently has a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.
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