Johnson & Johnson is in hot water again after recently unsealed documents revealed that the pharmaceutical and consumer healthcare products giant funded experiments done on mostly Black male prison inmates in which the men were injected with asbestos.
The company faces about 38,000 lawsuits and a multibillion-dollar settlement over allegations that its baby powder caused ovarian cancer.
In the 1950s, nearly a dozen men incarcerated outside Philadelphia enrolled in an experiment funded by J&J.
In one of the studies, inmates were paid to be injected with potentially cancer-causing asbestos so the company could compare its effect on their skin versus that of talc, a key component in its baby powder, Bloomberg reported.
Beginning in 1951, University of Pennsylvania dermatologist Albert Kligman experimented on inmates at Massachusetts’s Holmesburg Prison for Dow Chemical, the U.S. government, and J&J, The Independent reported.
The incarcerated study participants were paid anywhere between $10 and $300.
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Adrianne D Jones-Alston, whose father Leodus Jones was one of the men experimented on, denounced Kligman’s research on “incarcerated people…treated like lab rats, whose lives and families were harmed even as they were major contributors to the pharmaceutical world…”
“Trust in medicine is vital as world leaders keep pushing the covid vaccines,” she wrote in 2021 in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Kligman’s “experiments are a prime example of why Black communities ‘don’t trust.’”
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Penn Medicine — the University of Pennsylvania’s multi-hospital health system — later apologized for Kligman’s work.
Unsealed in 2021 during court proceedings, the new documents about the J&J experiments could influence future lawsuits against the consumer products giant.
J&J has long maintained it didn’t put asbestos, identified as a carcinogen in the 1950s, in its talcum powder. It withdrew the product from the market in 2020.
“We deeply regret the conditions under which these studies were conducted, and in no way do they reflect the values or practices we employ today,” Kim Montagnino, a company spokeswoman, told Bloomberg.
Since 2013, the company has paid more than $3.5 billion in talcum settlements and spent another $1 billion on legal defense, The Independent reported.
Photo: In this April 15, 2011, file photo, a bottle of Johnson’s baby powder is displayed. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)/Photo: Holmesburg Prison, in the northeast section of Philadelphia, Pa., is shown in this aerial view from 1970. (AP Photo/Bill Achatz)