The Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) has finally got into action on reports questioning the purity of the Johnson & Johnson baby powder.
"We have to investigate as to what is appearing in the news is true or not. We want to check if there are any traces of asbestos (in the powder) or not," S Eswara Reddy, the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) told Business Today.
"Under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, our inspectors have the powers to collect the sample. They will do so and the sample will be tested in our laboratories," he said, adding that instructions to this effect have already been given and the officials would be on the job.
One will have to wait now to see what comes out of the drug controller's investigation and what the company has to say to the drug regulator. Following the news reports, the company seems to have come out with a counterattack.
When asked to comment, the company spokesperson in India denied any wrongdoing and shared the statement, which among other things, claimed that Johnson & Johnson's baby powder is safe and asbestos-free.
"Studies of more than 100,000 men and women show that talc does not cause cancer or asbestos-related disease. Thousands of independent tests by regulators and the world's leading labs prove our baby powder has never contained asbestos."
Confirming that the regulator had visited their facilities and taken samples, the J&J spokesperson said, "Today, a few of our facilities were visited by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) and local Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorities and we are fully co-operating with them by providing tests and samples. The characterization of these visits as "raids" or "seizures" is incorrect as has been reported in some instances. The tests have been conducted in the regular way that the FDA collects samples."
"In the past authorities in India like the FDAs and the CDSCO have confirmed that our products comply with Indian standards and are free of asbestos. We unequivocally stand by the safety of our products, are fully compliant with regulatory standards and requirements in India and will continue to work with the regulatory authorities," the company spokesperson said.
The company also argues that thousands of tests by J&J, regulators, leading independent labs, and academic institutions have repeatedly shown that our talc does not contain asbestos.
"Every method available to test J&J's talc for asbestos has been used by J&J, regulators, or independent experts and all of these methods have all found that our cosmetic talc is asbestos-free," the statement says, adding J&J will continue to defend the safety of their product.
Industry experts point out that talc safety standards have been revised both globally and in India and though a company may claim that its product is safe, it is for the regulator to keep a constant vigil. Therefore, for the moment, focus would be on what the drug regulator's investigation reveals.