Johnson & Johnson settle talcum powder suit led by North Carolina, Florida for $700M

A team of state prosecutors led by North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein has reached a $700 million settlement with Johnson & Johnson over allegations that some of the company’s products caused ovarian cancer.

Stein, who is running for North Carolina Governor, along with the top law enforcement officers from Florida and Texas, were joined by Attorneys General from 39 states and Washington, D.C., in alleging that Johnson & Johnson deceptively marketed the safety and purity of its baby and body powder products containing talc. 

The states’ lawsuit targeted the deceptive marketing of these products, though numerous other lawsuits filed by private plaintiffs in class action suits allege that talc causes serious health issues including mesothelioma and ovarian cancer.

Talc, used in baby powder and other baby care products, has been linked to ovarian cancer, the eighth-leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women in North Carolina, Stein said in a statement announcing the settlement. Ovarian cancer kills about 50% of women who develop the disease, which is projected to claim another 400 women in the state this year. There are disparities in access to treatment and higher mortality rates for women of color, Stein said. 

As part of the investigation and resulting settlement, which is pending approval by a Judge, Johnson & Johnson stopped manufacturing and selling talc-containing powder in the United States after more than 100 years. North Carolina stands to receive $27 million from the settlement, which Stein is urging the Legislature to use to fund women’s cancer research.

“This initiative would include public-private partnerships, strengthening data collection and analysis, and a statewide communication and awareness campaign,” Stein wrote in a June 12 letter to members of the state Senate Committee on Appropriations, Health and Human Services. “The proposed initiatives would reach rural and underserved communities and tackle challenges to accessibility and stigma head-on.”

Florida will receive more than $48 million as a result of the settlement.

“This is a major advancement for consumer product safety, as Johnson & Johnson has stopped the manufacturing and marketing of products containing talc powder — which may be linked to serious health issues, including cancer,” Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said.

The state’s Ovarian Cancer Strategic Response Initiative, overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services, would implement prevention, screening, surveillance, and early diagnosis, particularly in underserved and rural communities.

“Companies cannot deceive people about the safety of the products they are selling,” Stein said. “People need to have accurate information so they can buy the right products for their health. I’m pleased that Johnson & Johnson will not be selling these questionable products anymore, and I urge the General Assembly to use these funds to help protect women’s health.”

Under the proposed agreement, Johnson & Johnson has ceased and will not resume the manufacturing, marketing, promotion, sale and distribution of all baby and body powder products and cosmetic powder products that contain talcum powder — including Johnson’s Baby Powder and Johnson & Johnson’s Shower to Shower — in the United States.

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