US

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has agreed to pay almost $9bn (£7.2bn) to settle tens of thousands of lawsuits alleging its talc caused cancer.

The new offer massively outstrips its past offering of $2bn.

The company faces about 40,000 lawsuits from people claiming its talc products caused cancer due to contamination with asbestos, a known carcinogen.

J&J has always denied the allegations, saying decades of scientific testing and regulatory approvals have shown its talc to be safe and asbestos-free.

It pulled its talc-based baby powder from the US market in 2020, saying “misinformation” about the product’s safety had caused demand to plummet.

Last year it announced it was stopping global sales of the product and would move to corn starch based powders.

The new offer was tied to a bankruptcy claim from the company’s subsidiary LTL.

J&J created the subsidiary to take on responsibility for the talc claims, but an attempt to file for bankruptcy in January failed because the court said the company was not in financial distress.

It refiled for bankruptcy on Tuesday.

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The company said: “Importantly, neither LTL’s original filing nor this re-filing is an admission of wrongdoing, nor an indication that the company has changed its longstanding position that its talcum powder products are safe.”

Erik Haas, worldwide vice president of litigation for J&J, added: “The company continues to believe that these claims are specious and lack scientific merit.”

But he said “resolving these cases in the tort system would take decades and impose significant costs on LTL and the system, with most claimants never receiving any compensation”.

Mr Haas said: “Resolving this matter through the proposed reorganisation plan is both more equitable and more efficient, allows claimants to be compensated in a timely manner, and enables the company to remain focused on our commitment to profoundly and positively impact health for humanity.”

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