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Johnson & Johnson “regrets” 1971 study that injected asbestos into US prisoners

BMJ 2022; 376 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.o681 (Published 15 March 2022) Cite this as: BMJ 2022;376:o681
  1. Owen Dyer
  1. Montreal

The drug company Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has expressed regret after court documents unsealed in talcum powder litigation showed that it funded a 1971 study in which Pennsylvania prison inmates, most of them black, were injected subcutaneously with asbestos.

The company paid Albert Kligman, a dermatologist who had recently invented the acne medicine tretinoin, to compare the effects of its talcum based Baby Powder on skin with the effects of chrysotile and tremolite asbestos.

Many of the studies carried out by Kligman at Holmesburg Prison in the 1960s and ’70s are already public knowledge, but J&J’s involvement had gone largely unnoticed.

Ten prisoners were paid as little as $10 to receive injections of talcum and of both types of asbestos in their lower backs to study skin reactions. Chrysotile asbestos, generally recognised as the most dangerous form, …

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