J&J implored to verify powder safety

September 02, 2020 | 15:00
International healthcare supplier Johnson & Johnson, despite facing thousands of lawsuits in the United States and Canada as its talcum powder has been allegedly harming women for years, has continued to sell the signature product in other countries across the globe, including Vietnam.
1507p17 jj implored to verify powder safety
J&J’s oil and powder products have been bathroom essentials globally for decades. Photo: Le Toan

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) previously announced that it would stop selling its iconic baby powder made with talc in the US and Canada amid thousands of lawsuits by people claiming that the product was responsible for cancer in some female consumers who used it for years, and even people who inhaled it.

J&J, however, has denied these claims despite being hit with multi-million-dollar verdicts in several trials. The company explained the discontinuation by a decline in customer demand.

In an official statement J&J emphasised, “The demand for talc-based baby powder in North America has been declining due in large part to changes in consumer habits and fuelled by misinformation around the safety of the product and a constant barrage of litigation advertising.”

The company says it remains steadfastly confident in the safety of the powder. “Decades of scientific studies by medical experts around the world support the safety of our product. We will continue to vigorously defend it, its safety, and the unfounded allegations against it and the company in the courtroom. All verdicts against the company that have been through the appeals process have been overturned,” J&J added.

J&J pulled its talc-based baby powder off the shelves in the US and Canada in May following a 60-per-cent drop in sales and the lawsuits and damages.

However, both types of Johnson’s Baby Powder – talc-based and corn-starch-based – are continuing to be sold in other markets around the world where there is significantly higher consumer demand for the product, a J&J representative confirmed to VIR.

In Vietnam, Johnson’s Baby Powder products have been available and widely used for a long time. For instance, consumers can easily purchase these products at affordable prices in well-known pharmacy chains, such as Long Chau Pharmacy, which is backed by FPT Retail, or Mekong Capital-backed Pharmacity.

Furthermore, these products are broadly distributed in a variety of grocery stores, or even popular e-commerce platforms such as Tiki, Shopee, Lazada, and Sendo. Some retail chains specialising on baby products like concung.com have also boosted sales for J&J talc-based powders.

The company has wound down Johnson’s Baby Powder’s commercials in North America yet a number of the powder’s marketing campaigns for the Vietnamese market still dominate.

Advertisements for these products are aimed at emotional attaching with local consumers, thus gaining a huge popularity as go-to products for newborn babies.

The company’s website meanwhile claims “Johnson’s Baby talc products are made using US Pharmacopeial grade talc to ensure it meets the highest quality, purity, and compliance standards. Our talc is carefully selected, processed, and tested to ensure that is asbestos free, as confirmed by regular testing conducted since the 1970s.”

“Our confidence in using talc is based on a long history of safe use and more than 30 years of research by independent researchers, scientific review boards, and global regulatory authorities,” J&J highlighted in its Safety & Care commitment.

However, J&J had to recall around 33,000 bottles of Johnson’s Baby Powder last year after the US Food and Drug Administration found traces of asbestos in some samples. The company said it issued the recall out of an abundance of caution, and said that subsequent tests of the same batch found no asbestos.

Sources revealed to Indian newswire The Economic Times that J&J decided to scale down its iconic product line in India, too, by scaling down the production.

Last month, more than 170 non-profit groups also called for J&J to halt selling its talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder worldwide, citing concerns that it contains cancer-causing asbestos, according to a statement from advocacy group Black Women for Wellness.

Representatives of the Drug Administration of Vietnam under the Ministry of Health have previously said that they are urging J&J to report on the recall of these products. The department also inspected several J&J powder products amid litigation over alleged links to cancer among consumers from other countries.

Based on information of the product’s safety, the department will soon issue related documents handling this case.

By Luu Huong

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