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J&J ordered to halt talc production from raw materials at Indian factories

Johnson & Johnson has been ordered by India's drug authority to stop the production of its baby powder with raw materials from two Indian factories pending results of tests for the presence of asbestos, Reuters reported Dec. 20.

The Central Drugs Standard Control Organization has sent a written order to J&J that stops the company from using raw materials at its plants in northern and western India.

On Dec. 19, the regulator seized samples of J&J's baby powder for lab testing from a factory in Baddi, Himachal Pradesh, following a report from Reuters which claimed that the company knew about the presence of cancer-causing asbestos in the product.

J&J called Reuters' investigational report "one-sided, false and inflammatory."

The world's largest healthcare company said in an emailed statement that all talc in India is sourced and exclusively sold in the country and surrounding markets, adding that it fully meets the regulatory standards of the Indian government for the manufacturing and testing of its talc, Reuters reported.

In addition, the company stated that its talc is regularly tested by suppliers and independent labs to make sure that there is no asbestos present.

The news agency had stated in its investigational report that J&J was aware of the presence of asbestos in its talc powder as early as the 1950s, and has eluded regulation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration since the 1970s and continued to market the powder despite the risk.

J&J faces about 11,700 lawsuits from consumers who say the product led to ovarian cancer or mesothelioma, a type of cancer that occurs in the thin layer of tissue that covers the majority of internal organs.

Also on Dec. 19, the company lost a motion to reverse a jury verdict from July, which ordered the company to pay $4.69 billion in damages to 22 women who claimed that the talc product contained asbestos which led to their ovarian cancer.