J&J says tests find no asbestos in suspect talc batch, but FDA stands by its finding

Johnson & Johnson released details of new studies that found no asbestos in a talc batch it previously recalled. (J&J)

Johnson & Johnson has spent years defending its talc powder against cancer lawsuits, so it shocked many when an FDA test found cancer-causing asbestos, triggering a one-batch recall earlier this month. Now, J&J says its own follow-up testing cleared that batch and the suspect bottle, too.

Fifteen tests of the same bottle the FDA's experts examined⁠—this time conducted by independent labs J&J hired—turned up no asbestos, the company said. More than 60 tests across the recalled batch found no asbestos either, according to the drugmaker.

As Reuters reported, the agency's tests were conducted by an expert who had testified on J&J's behalf during its long-running talc litigation.

J&J halted trading on its shares Tuesday afternoon to release the testing results. The company's market cap dropped by billions last week after J&J announced the recall, which it initiated out of an "abundance of caution," the company said. After that recall, several retailers said they'd pull all bottles in the same size from their shelves.

FDA experts told Reuters they stand by their lab's test result. The drugmaker can argue its talc is asbestos-free based on its findings, an official told the news service, “and we would say the opposite for that sample."  

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The follow-up test results come as J&J faces about 16,800 lawsuits claiming its talc powders can cause cancer. Juries have hit the drugmaker with billions of dollars in verdicts, but J&J has appealed each loss. Each verdict that has been fully adjudicated has been overturned, CFO Joe Wolk said on a recent conference call.