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Johnson & Johnson’s $50 Billion Baby Powder Problem Just Got a Whole Lot Worse. Here’s Why

Indian drug inspectors have seized Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder from a factory in Baddi for testing.

“On the basis of the news report, we are alerting staff to pick up samples. We will test them in a drug control lab here,” regional drug officer Surendranath Sai told Reuters.

The news agency published a major report last week that showed J&J executives knew for decades that some of their talc sources had asbestos contamination. The company has denied the allegations, which it is also fighting in almost 12,000 court claims.

J&J lost $50 billion in market value in the wake of the report and has announced share buyback plans of up to $5 billion. It reports $1.5 billion in annual sales under the Johnson & Johnson brand name. In July, a jury awarded $4.7 billion to 22 women and their families in a case alleging that asbestos in baby powder caused ovarian cancer. That case is now on appeal. J&J has won other appeals in some cancer-related claims but also been found liable for hundreds of millions of dollars.

Cancer authorities including the American Cancer Society and the World Health Organization list asbestos as a carcinogen at any dose. Talc-based products that do not contain asbestos may have only a small association with cancer, according to the ACS. The plethora of cases against J&J include some talc-only cases and others that involve asbestos.