Shares of Johnson & Johnson (J&J) fell over 6 percent on Friday, on track to post their biggest percentage drop in more than a decade, after Reuters reported that the pharma major knew that its baby powder was contaminated with cancer-causing asbestos.
The decline in shares wiped off about $24 billion from the company’s market capitalization and made the stock the biggest drag on the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 indexes.
J&J was found to have known about the presence of small amounts of asbestos in its products from as early as 1971, a Reuters examination of company memos, internal reports and other confidential documents showed.
Reuters report also showed the company had commissioned and paid for studies conducted on its Baby Powder franchise and hired a ghostwriter to redraft the article that presented the findings in a journal.
J&J has been battling some 6,000 cases claiming its Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products cause ovarian cancer. The products have also been linked with mesothelioma, a rare and deadly form of cancer that affects the delicate tissue that lines body cavities.
J&J insists on the safety and purity of its iconic product.
But the internal documents examined by Reuters show that the company’s powder was sometimes tainted with carcinogenic asbestos and that J&J kept that information from regulators and the public.
Reuters compiled a special report, which runs to 6,000 words, which was released on Friday.