Decades after the event, Johnson & Johnson (J&J), the 130-year-old American multinational, is still praised for swiftly The company indicated
Decades after the event, Johnson & Johnson (J&J), the 130-year-old American multinational, is still praised for swiftly The company indicated that its response was based on the expectations set forth in the Credo, its moral compass. The Credo, which begins with the sentence “We believe our first responsibility is to the doctors, nurses and patients, to mothers and fathers and all others who use our products and services,” spells out the company’s responsibilities to its various stakeholders, including consumers, employees, and shareholders.Currently, J&J is facing more than 1,200 lawsuits in the United States based on the claim that the company ignored the link between ovarian cancer and its baby powder and Shower-to-Shower talcum products. In early 2016, two U.S. juries decided against J&J as follows:
• The family of Jacqueline Fox received $72 million in February 2016. Fox died of ovarian cancer after using J&J’s talcum powder products for feminine hygiene for several decades.
• Gloria Ristesund received $55 million in damages in May 2016 because she developed ovarian cancer and had to have a hysterectomy after using J&J talcum powder for over forty years. A jury member involved in Ristesund’s case told Bloomberg News, “We felt like they knew for decades that they should have put a warning on this product.
The science on the matter is not definitive. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reported that there is “limited evidence in humans” for a connection between ovarian cancer and the genital use of talcum-based body powders. However, as early as 1982, Dr. Daniel Cramer, an obstetrician-gynecologist with the Epidemiology Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, reported talcum being found in the lymph nodes of ovarian cancer patients. Paul Demers of Cancer Care Ontario, a member of the IARC committee, evaluated the evidence of talcum being a possible carcinogen. He noted, “We have some evidence to be concerned about … it is not definitive enough to say probably carcinogenic.An internal J&J memo from 1987 indicates the company was aware of the potential risks of talcum powder. In it, a medical consultant wrote, “Anybody who denies [the] risks” between ovarian cancer and hygienic talcum powder use will be publicly perceived in the same light as those who denied a link between cancer and smoking cigarettes. “Denying the obvious in the face of all evidence to the contrary.While some of this research indicates that the extended use of talcum powder increases the risk of ovarian cancer by approximately one-third, Ovacome, a U.K.-based ovarian cancer support charity, notes that some perspective is needed in interpreting this figure. The organization wrote, “Although this may sound frightening, to put it into context, smoking and drinking increases the risk of esophageal cancer by 30 times.
1. Was J&J’s decision to not inform its customers of the potential risks of extended use of talcum powder products acceptable?
2. If J&J knew about the potential risks of talcum powder products in 1987, should the company have withdrawn all its talcum products in the same way that it recalled all of its Tylenol products in 1982?
3. Do you think that Credos are effective at encouraging ethical business behavior?
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