Johnson & Johnson is ending sales of its iconic talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder in the U.S. and Canada, where demand has dwindled amid thousands of lawsuits claiming it has caused cancer.
The world’s biggest maker of health care products said Tuesday the talc-based powder will still be sold outside the U.S. and Canada.
“Demand for talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder in North America has been declining due in large part to changes in consumer habits and fueled by misinformation around the safety of the product and a constant barrage of litigation advertising,” the company said.
J&J faces about 19,400 cases alleging its talcum powder caused users to develop ovarian cancer, through use for feminine hygiene, or mesothelioma, a cancer that strikes the lungs and other organs.
Of the cases that have been tried, J&J has had 12 wins, 15 losses and seven mistrials. All of the losses have either been overturned on appeal or are still being appealed.
The company insists, and the overwhelming majority of medical research on talc indicates, that the talc baby powder is safe and doesn’t cause cancer.
“Whether or not the powder actually causes cancer, people became hesitant to use the product,” Erik Gordon, a professor at University of Michigan’s business school, said in an email.
J&J spokeswoman Kimberly Montagnino said the company doesn’t plan to settle any of the lawsuits and “will continue to vigorously defend” the product.
The New Brunswick, New Jersey, company said the baby powder decision came as it moves to discontinue about 100 consumer health products. It said its aim is to prioritize products in high demand during the coronavirus outbreak and allow for social distancing in its manufacturing and distribution facilities.
J&J will still sell its less-popular cornstarch-based baby powder in North America.