Health and Science

J&J shares extend losses; company defends Baby Powder as safe

Key Points
  • Shares of Johnson & Johnson slipped another 2 percent on Monday, extending losses following Friday's Reuters report that the healthcare conglomerate knew for decades that cancer-causing asbestos lurked in its Baby Powder.
  • In response to the report, the company said on Friday "any suggestion that Johnson & Johnson knew or hid information about the safety of talc is false."
Bottles of Johnson & Johnson baby powder line a drugstore shelf in New York.
Lucas Jackson | Reuters

Shares of Johnson & Johnson slipped another 2 percent on Monday, extending losses following Friday's Reuters report that the healthcare conglomerate knew for decades that cancer-causing asbestos lurked in its Baby Powder.

J&J shares had closed down 10 percent on Friday, wiping out about $40 billion from the company's market capitalization.

The company knew about the presence of small amounts of asbestos in its products as early as 1971, a Reuters examination of company memos, internal reports and other confidential documents showed.

In response to the report, the company said on Friday "any suggestion that Johnson & Johnson knew or hid information about the safety of talc is false."

On Monday, J&J took out a full-page ad in the New York Times titled "Science. Not Sensationalism," saying it has scientific evidence its talc is safe and beneficial to use. "If we had any reasons to believe our talc was unsafe, it would be off our shelves," the ad said.

J&J Chief Executive Alex Gorsky, in his first public statement since the Reuters story was published, is scheduled to appear on CNBC at 6 p.m. ET on Monday.

While J&J has dominated the talc powder market for more than 100 years, the products contributed less than 0.5 percent of J&J's $76.5 billion revenue last year.

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Key Points
  • Reuters reporter Lisa Girion stands by her report that Johnson & Johnson knew for decades that asbestos was in its baby powder.
  • "Our report ... is based entirely on their documents," she says.
  • J&J called the Reuters article "one-sided, false and inflammatory."