Johnson & Johnson has agreed to a $700 million settlement with 42 U.S. states and Washington, D.C., over allegations that the company misled consumers about the safety of its talc-based products, which have been blamed for allegedly causing cancer. This settlement concludes a major investigation into the marketing practices of the pharmaceutical giant, which had sold talc-based baby powder and other products for over a century.

The states' investigation centered on the claim that Johnson & Johnson's talc products contained asbestos, a known carcinogen, and that the company failed to disclose this risk to consumers. Despite the settlement, Johnson & Johnson has not admitted any wrongdoing and maintains that its talc products are safe and do not contain asbestos.

"This is a major advancement for consumer product safety," said Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, who led the multi-state effort alongside North Carolina and Texas.

Johnson & Johnson still faces substantial legal challenges. As of March 31, approximately 61,490 individuals had lawsuits pending against the company. Most plaintiffs are women suffering from ovarian cancer, while others have mesothelioma, a rare cancer linked to asbestos exposure. These lawsuits accuse Johnson & Johnson of knowingly selling products that posed health risks.

In response to the growing litigation, Johnson & Johnson ceased the global sale of its talc-based baby powder last year, replacing talc with corn starch in its products. Despite these changes, the company continues to contend with a large number of claims. In an effort to manage the legal fallout, J&J has made multiple attempts to resolve these cases through bankruptcy proceedings involving a subsidiary established to handle talc liabilities. However, courts have rebuffed these efforts twice.

Most recently, on May 1, Johnson & Johnson proposed a $6.48 billion settlement aimed at resolving most of the talc-related litigation through a third bankruptcy filing. The company has set aside an $11 billion reserve to cover all talc liabilities. "The company continues to pursue several paths to achieve a comprehensive and final resolution of the talc litigation," Erik Haas, J&J's worldwide vice president of litigation, said in a statement. "We will continue to address the claims of those who do not want to participate in our contemplated consensual bankruptcy resolution through litigation or settlement."

The recent settlement underscores the extensive scrutiny and legal battles J&J faces over its talc products. The $700 million will be distributed among the states involved in the settlement, with significant portions allocated to areas like Virginia ($21.1 million), Maryland ($14.9 million), and Washington, D.C. ($3 million). Despite the financial penalties, questions remain about whether consumers will receive any direct restitution from these funds.

The broader impact of this settlement is still unfolding. While the state-level case has been settled, individual lawsuits continue to press forward. Many of these cases are scheduled for trial later this year, keeping the spotlight on Johnson & Johnson's legal strategies and financial liabilities.

Despite these legal hurdles, Johnson & Johnson has reported strong financial performance. The company concluded the first quarter of the financial year with higher-than-expected earnings per share, driven by a surge in sales within its medical devices business. Total revenue stood at $21.38 billion, aligning closely with market expectations and reflecting a more than 2% increase from the same quarter in the previous year.

In a statement to News4, Johnson & Johnson emphasized its commitment to resolving the ongoing talc litigation. The company reiterated that it is exploring multiple avenues to achieve a comprehensive settlement, aiming to bring closure to the extensive legal battles that have beleaguered it for years.