The report indicated that the U.S. pharmeceutical giant knew about asbestos tainting their talcum powder for decades, and comes at a time where the company is faced with thousands of lawsuits claiming its talc products cause cancer.
Reuters examined internal documents, as well as trial depositions and testimony which they say prove that J&J knew the powder was sometimes tainted with "carcinogenic asbestos" from "at least 1971 to the early 2000s" and that executives, mine managers, scientists, doctors and lawyers anxious about the issue and how to address it while keeping it hidden from regulators and the public.
In July, Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay £3.6 billion in damages to 22 women who alleged that its talc products caused them to develop ovarian cancer. In a major setback to the company, St. Louis jury in July had awarded almost $4.7 billion in total damages to 22 women and their families after they claimed asbestos in Johnson & Johnson talcum powder contributed to their ovarian cancer in the first case against the company that focused on asbestos in the powder.
In the report, Reuters claimed documents show consulting labs as early as 1957 and 1958 found asbestos in Johnson & Johnson talc.
After the publication of the bombshell report, the company's stock dropped by more than 10 percent on December 14.
One of those labs found asbestos in Shower to Shower talc from the 1990s, according to an August 11, 2017, court report.
Furthermore, "company executives, mine managers, scientists, doctors and lawyers fretted over the problem and how to address it while failing to disclose it to regulators or the public", Reuters reporter Lisa Girion wrote. But in many instances, J&J has been able to overturn the verdicts on appeal.
"And while talc products contributed just $420 million to J&J's $76.5 billion in revenue past year, Baby Powder is considered an essential facet of the healthcare-products maker's carefully tended image as a caring company-a 'sacred cow, ' as one 2003 internal email put it".
In emailed responses, Bicks rejected Reuters' findings as "false and misleading".
Another attorney who's not tied to the cases against Johnson & Johnson concluded on Twitter that the 1970s memos mentioned in Reuters' report are "on par with key docs uncovered in the tobacco litigation". He said there have been a number of trials where plaintiffs showed evidence suggesting the company knew and concealed the risks.