DOJ and SEC are investigating Johnson & Johnson over asbestos-related claims in its baby powder

Wachiwit/iStock(NEW YORK) -- The Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating Johnson & Johnson regarding alleged asbestos contamination in its baby powder.

The New Jersey-based pharmaceuticals and consumer goods giant said that it is cooperating with the government inquiries and that it has been subpoenaed.

The investigations were revealed in an annual report for the fiscal year ending Dec. 30, 2018, which was filed with the SEC on Wednesday. It is the first time the investigations were made public.

"The Company has received preliminary inquiries and subpoenas to produce documents regarding these matters from Senator [Patty] Murray, a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission. The Company is cooperating with these government inquiries and will be producing documents in response," according to the SEC filing.

The SEC and DOJ declined to comment.

The company also addressed the increasing number of lawsuits it was facing from asbestos-related claims, the filing showed.

"The number of pending product liability lawsuits continues to increase, and the Company continues to receive information with respect to potential costs and the anticipated number of cases. Lawsuits have been primarily filed in state courts in Missouri, New Jersey and California. Cases filed in federal courts in the United States have been organized as a multi-district litigation in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey," according to the filing.

Johnson & Johnson "has successfully defended a number of these cases but there have been verdicts against the Company, including a verdict in July 2018 of $4.7 billion," according to the SEC filing. It added that the company believes "it has strong grounds on appeal to overturn these verdicts."

On Thursday, Johnson & Johnson denied that the company's iconic baby powder contained asbestos and maintained it safety.

"These inquiries are related to news reports about the ongoing talc litigation that adversely impacted our share price in late December 2018. The news reports included inaccurate statements and also withheld crucial information that had already been made public in the litigation and in prior media reports. Decades of independent tests by regulators and the world’s leading labs prove Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder is safe and asbestos-free, and does not cause cancer. We intend to cooperate fully with these inquiries and will continue to defend the Company in the talc-related litigation," a spokesman wrote to ABC News in an emailed statement.

In December, Reuters published an explosive investigation alleging the opposite.

Through its investigation, Reuters says it counted 11,700 plaintiffs claiming that J&J talc caused cancer — specifically thousands of cases of women suffering from ovarian cancer.

The news agency reported that "an examination of many of those documents, as well as deposition and trial testimony, shows that from at least 1971 to the early 2000s, the company’s raw talc and finished powders sometimes tested positive for small amounts of asbestos, and that company executives, mine managers, scientists, doctors and lawyers fretted over the problem and how to address it while failing to disclose it to regulators or the public."

In one of the biggest asbestos-related civil judgments to date, a St. Louis jury awarded 22 women the aforementioned $4.7 billion after they successfully claimed the company's talc powder caused their ovarian cancer.

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Four women who look alike discover they're sisters after DNA test: Report

Gio_tto/iStock(NEW YORK) --  Four women who were drawn to each other because of how similar they look have discovered they are sisters through DNA testing.

Shannon Holley Nicoll, 49, and Rachelle Arthur Dyer, 53, met for the first time at a Kenny Chesney concern in 2010 after years of their mutual friends telling them how much they look alike, the women told the Virginia Pilot.

It wasn't just their physical appearance that people commented on, Dyer said, it was their mannerisms as well.

Dyer eventually went to teach at Tallwood Elementary in Virginia Beach, where Nicoll had already been teaching, and their colleagues would mention that the two could be sisters.

But, the women each already had one. Dyer's twin sister, Kristelle Arthur Harrington, lives in Seattle, while Nicoll's sister, Lisa Holley Vann, 51, also looked like the trio.

DNA tests taken by other family members in 2017 confirmed that all four women were born to the same mother, Janice Moore, who had put the twins up for adoption after deciding she couldn't provide for them. Moore had demanded that the twins stay together and be raised in a Catholic home, and the twins grew up near Seattle.

Two years after putting the twins up for adoption, Moore met Dean Holley, and the couple were married and had two daughters in Virginia Beach.

"I was blown away," Vann said.

Dyer and Harrington knew they were adopted and always wondered if they had more siblings. Moore took the secret of the adoption "to the grave with her," Vann said, but she did tell her sister, Tracey Hall, who passed the secret down to her daughter, Sue Hall.

Sue Hall is the cousin who took the DNA test.

"I figured, if I died someone had to know about this," Sue Hall, who lives in Fredericksburg, told the newspaper. "Janny was determined to do the best thing for the twins and we always wondered about them. And I always thought that if the twins wanted to find us they would have by now."

Sue Hall added that she believed her aunt would be "happy" about all of her daughters reuniting.

The similarities don't stop at the women's looks and mannerisms, which Dyer described as "almost like looking in the mirror." After the quartet of sisters met face-to-face for the first time last weekend over dinner, other family members who attended observed that they all have bubbly personalities, similar voices and are family-oriented and interested in fashion.

"I mean, we were finishing each other's sentences," Nicoll said.

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Pinterest blocks vaccination searches to avoid spreading anti-vaccination information

TARIK KIZILKAYA/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Pinterest, known for its inspiration on everything from cooking to party ideas and workouts, has been blocking vaccination-related searches for the past year.

The search engine confirmed the policy after it was first reported Thursday in the Wall Street Journal. Searches related to vaccines and vaccination fall under the company’s health misinformation guideline that was put in place in 2017, a company spokesperson told Good Morning America.

Pinterest, which claims more than 250 million monthly active users, started blocking certain vaccine and cancer-related searches last year because "results were leading to harmful misinformation."

“We want Pinterest to be an inspiring place for people, and there's nothing inspiring about misinformation,” the Pinterest spokesperson said in a statement. “That's why we continue to work on new ways of keeping misleading content off our platform and out of our recommendations engine."

Pinterest users can save vaccine information to their boards, but the search engine does not save misinformation about vaccines.

“We proactively take action on Pins and boards that contain health misinformation, and we encourage anyone who might be encountering this content to report it to our team,” the spokesperson said.

The spotlight on Pinterest’s proactive steps to eliminate the spread of vaccine misinformation comes as an outbreak of measles in the Pacific Northwest affects mostly children who have not been immunized.

Measles was a deadly disease for children in America before the vaccine became widely available starting in 1963. Immunization rates in Washington state, the epicenter of the outbreak, have been dropping in recent years, data shows.

Experts say that parents who don't vaccinate their kids tend to be affluent and better educated.

Peter Hotez, a vaccine advocate and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, told ABC News last month that most parents are trying to "do the right thing for their kids" but are stymied by misinformation and false studies — the kind of online content that Pinterest is trying to block.

"The phony information on the websites on the internet; it's being amplified on social media," he said.

Pinterest relies on guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help determine if content violates its guidelines of prohibiting "advice where there may be immediate and detrimental effects on a Pinner’s health or on public safety."

Vaccines are universally backed by respected scientists and federal agencies, including WHO and the CDC, which offers an immunization schedule as a guide for parents.

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Fellow firefighters play stork to deliver adopted baby 

Matt277/iStock(BALTIMORE) -- A baby boy was delivered to his adoptive parents in the most memorable way possible: with firetrucks, firefighters and the surprise of a lifetime.

Mike Faherty and his wife Karen Faherty had been in the process of adopting a baby for some time, Lieutenant Erik Kornmeyer of the Anne Arundel County Fire Department in Maryland told ABC News. Mike Faherty is a firefighter with the department.

A video, posted to Facebook by fellow firefighter Nick Dooley, has been viewed around a quarter-million times since Feb. 16. It shows a group of fire fighters -- and a fire truck - helping to deliver baby Michael Terrance Faherty III to his parents.

"Mike was always doing everything in his power to help anyone out, he was a great leader," Dooley told "Good Morning America." "Being able to give something back to him was an incredible experience.”

The adoption agency the Baltimore couple was using worked with Faherty’s fire department to make the arrival of the baby an unforgettable moment.

Fire fighters John Long and Cole Eicholtz helped coordinate the baby’s big engrance. Long enlisted the use of the ambulance and the rescue squad from Ferndale and Baltimore City Fire Department Engine 42.

"The fire service is a brotherhood and doing things like this is just what we do for our brothers and sisters,” Eicholtz told "GMA."

Mike Faherty told "GMA" that he and his wife were feeling "grateful" to his "brother and sister firefighters who came out to show their love and support, who pitched in to fill our refrigerator with food, and who showered little Michael with all the toys, clothes, and diapers he could possibly need."

He added that baby Michael is doing great.

"We had dozens of visitors and the outpouring of love and support from not only members of our family but also people in our community has been incredible."

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Want to attend the 'Game of Thrones' final season premiere? Get ready to bleed for it

toeytoey2530/iStock(NEW YORK) --  The show that brought you the Red Wedding is now offering you the chance to attend its final season premiere... if you open a vein.

Game of Thrones is teaming up with the Red Cross to allow some lucky fans to attend the world premiere of the show's eighth and final season -- in exchange for your blood. Literally.

The Red Cross is in dire need of blood, platelets or AB Elite plasma, and is willing to trade trips to the premiere for it.

If you donate blood to the Red Cross between between Feb. 19 and March 17, you will be automatically entered to win one of five trips to the premiere.

A teaser shows some of the show's characters' suffering, and asks, "They all bleed for the throne. Will you?"

You could also get a bloody Iron Throne T-shirt and sticker -- while supplies last -- if you give blood to the Red Cross between March 7 and 12. Go to for more details.

In case you don't win, Game of Thrones returns to HBO on April 14.

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Babies born weeks apart after mom, surrogate get pregnant at same time

Courtesy Tawnee Gonzalez(CYPRESS, Texas) -- A couple expecting a baby via surrogate welcomed not one, but two children after a mom became pregnant in addition to her surrogate.

"I was told that I was never able to get pregnant," Andrea Valentine of Cypress, Texas, told ABC News' Good Morning America. "It makes me speechless every time I look at [my children]. It was worth the heartache and every single emotion."

Valentine and her husband, James, had trouble getting pregnant. The couple married in 2013 and began IVF in 2014, but the embryos were not implanting.

That's when their neighbor Tawnee Gonzalez, a mother of one, stepped in.

"I said, 'When it comes down to it, I'm more than willing to become your surrogate,'" Gonzalez told GMA. "James and Andrea deserved to be parents more than anyone I know so I wanted to help them."

A few months later, Valentine asked Gonzalez if she was serious about the offer to carry her baby for her.

"I was just shocked that someone would offer that gift," Valentine said. "I was scared she might changed her mind or my husband wouldn't agree with it, or her husband wouldn't agree with it. Then, I was down because I wanted to feel all these things -- the butterflies, the baby kicking. So it was a roller coaster of emotions."

With her family's blessing, Gonzalez went ahead with the process. On Feb. 20, 2018, she underwent an embryo transfer. Within a week, she and the Valentines learned she was pregnant.

Valentine said that one day later, she found out she herself was pregnant via natural conception.

Now, the Valentines are parents to Britton and Kinsley Valentine, who were born 24 days apart.

"It's so surreal," Valentine said. "I daydream about how we started and how much struggle we faced with the losses we faced ... Now, I am blessed that I have two healthy babies. I have a boy and a girl."

Gonzalez said she hopes the Valentines' story reaches aspiring parents who are losing hope.

"If you are struggling [to have a child], I don't know how this can't restore your faith in a higher power," Gonzalez said.

She went on, "Everyone said, 'It's crazy that you did this for nothing.' I get so much more out of this than money. I'm going to get to watch him grow up and it's pretty amazing. It's a wonderful little miracle."

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FDA panel endorses Johnson & Johnson ketamine nasal spray for treatment-resistant depression

MJ_Prototype/iStock BY: DR. THERESA SCOTT

(NEW YORK) -- Ketamine is often used in hospitals as an anesthetic, but it’s also well known as a street drug. Now, an expert panel wants to convince the Food and Drug Administration that ketamine may help treat severe depression when no other drugs work.

Tests for ketamine as a depression treatment began in the late 1990s, when psychiatrist Dr. Dennis Charney and a team of researchers saw that patients with severe depression, who were undergoing operations, were given ketamine and subsequently experienced fewer symptoms. The team quickly got to work on a study, which was published in 2000 and found similar results.

The only problem with the study was that “no one cared,” Charney told ABC News.

That was not the case for the next study on ketamine’s effects on people with depression, which was sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health. After it showed that patients with major depression benefited from two ketamine treatments a week apart from each other, doctors who didn’t have anything else to offer patients with severe depression began treatment with the drug.

Several other studies since then have also found success in treating depressed patients with ketamine. Most recently, Johnson & Johnson has developed a ketamine-based nasal spray called esketamine. On Feb. 12, an advisory committee at the FDA voted in favor of approving the nasal spray, an action that the FDA will decide on by March 4.

What is esketamine and what would it be used for?

Esketamine is a nasal spray derived from ketamine, a medication most commonly used to put people to sleep during an operation. Ketamine has also been given off-label intravenously to people with severe depression for over a decade now. Both physicians and patients have reported rapid improvement in their depression symptoms, sometimes within hours of taking their first dose, Charney said.

While Charney said it’s still unclear how the drug fights depression so well, he said it might involve restoring brain cell connections through totally different neurotransmitters than conventional antidepressants.

Charney said that based on his study of ketamine, side effects are generally mild, with the most common ones being dizziness, increased blood pressure, sleepiness, and dissociative symptoms (feelings of being “detached” from one’s surroundings). If esketamine is approved, Charney said that a ketamine nasal spray would have to be administered in a doctor’s office so that patients could be monitored.

Will it be approved?

Esketamine is currently undergoing human clinical trials, but preliminary data has been so promising that the FDA assembled that panel of experts to see if it should be made available to the public immediately. Dr. Charney is “very optimistic,” and that recent vote, 14 to 2 in favor, is also promising. They haven’t mentioned how much the treatment would cost, but if it’s FDA approved, it often means that insurance companies will begin to cover it.

Why is it controversial?

Ketamine is used for anesthesia, but it also has a reputation as a “club drug” that alters consciousness by distorting vision and sound as well as causing feelings of being detached from one’s environment.

That said, there is currently no evidence that people can become addicted to treatment doses of ketamine, which are much lower than they would be for recreational or anesthetic use. The longest study on its effects against depression show that it can be taken safely for up to a year, however, that’s only because the drug hasn’t been studied for a longer period of time. Charney said that it’s possible the drug could be used for longer than a year, but that patients could probably be tapered off of it over time or use it as a “bridge” while waiting for more conventional antidepressants to work. It is unclear at this time if patients will require ongoing, lifelong treatment, he said.

As a fierce supporter of using the drug’s in people with depression for almost 30 years, Charney is optimistic as he waits for the FDA to make a decision.

“For those patients who have had depression for years and have never responded to treatment,” he said, “there is now hope.”

Theresa Scott, DO, MS, is a pediatric resident and member of the ABC News Medical Unit.

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'Young blood' treatments to stop aging, disease are a 'significant public health concern': FDA

toeytoey2530/iStock(NEW YORK) -- It sounds like science fiction, but some companies are promoting the infusion of “young blood” into older people. Now, the Food and Drug Administration has gone on the record saying there is no evidence that these treatments have any effect on signs of aging or diseases, and it is warning people about getting transfusions from companies, calling them "unscrupulous actors."

Start-up companies like Ambrosia have received a lot of attention for promises about the benefits of transfusing plasma from young donors (ages 16-25). It has claimed that the transfusions can combat memory loss from aging, Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, multiple sclerosis and post-traumatic stress disorder.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb and Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said in a press release that they have “significant public health concerns about the promotion and use of plasma” for the aforementioned purposes.

Plasma is the clear, liquid part of blood that moves blood cells around the body. It is rich in proteins that help clot blood and fight infection. Currently, plasma transfusions are used in serious medical situations, such as traumas and bleeding disorders, but even in these cases, a transfusion carries the risk of complications, most notably new infections, allergic reactions, and lung injuries.

"There is no proven clinical benefit of infusion of plasma from young donors to cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent these conditions, and there are risks associated with the use of any plasma product," they said in their statement.

Despite possible adverse reactions to another person’s plasma, Ambrosia, specifically, allowed people to purchase one unit of plasma for $8,000 directly from its homepage, without even going through a medical assessment or examination. The company noted that “checks and money wires are accepted” and “laboratory fees may be extra.” This service has since been removed after the FDA statement was released on Feb. 19.

Ambrosia did not respond to ABC News' request for comment on Tuesday.

The FDA statement says there is no clinical evidence that infusions of young plasma are effective and there are no official regulations on dosing, frequency or recommended monitoring associated with the transfusion.

"Today, we’re alerting consumers and health care providers that treatments using plasma from young donors have not gone through the rigorous testing that the FDA normally requires in order to confirm the therapeutic benefit of a product and to ensure its safety,” the statement said. “As a result, the reported uses of these products should not be assumed to be safe or effective. We strongly discourage consumers from pursuing this therapy outside of clinical trials under appropriate institutional review board and regulatory oversight."

"Simply put, we’re concerned that some patients are being preyed upon by unscrupulous actors touting treatments of plasma from young donors as cures and remedies,” the statement continued. “Such treatments have no proven clinical benefits for the uses for which these clinics are advertising them and are potentially harmful. There are reports of bad actors charging thousands of dollars for infusions that are unproven and not guided by evidence from adequate and well-controlled trials."

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'Zombie deer' disease is spreading across the US: What you should know


(NEW YORK) -- Is there such a thing as “zombie deer?” The answer is yes, and they may be your newest neighbors.

Since the first report of “zombie deer” about 50 years ago, sightings of the deer have spread to several parts of the United States, mostly because the cause of the disease has spread as well. “Zombie deer,” of course, have more to do with a fatal disease than with any kind of zombie flick.

What is ‘zombie deer’ disease?

“Zombie deer” disease, also known as chronic wasting disease, is a type of prion disease that affects deer, elk, and moose. Prions are small, abnormal, infectious proteins that cause proteins in the body to fold abnormally, especially in the brain and spinal cord. The disease gets more serious as it progresses, and it is always fatal.

“A lot of the concern [about chronic wasting disease] is based on something that occurred years ago,” Ryan Maddox, Ph.D., epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told ABC News.

Maddox was referring to fears from another prion disease, “mad cow,” which was first found in England, where it spread to humans as the rare variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. “Mad cow” disease is not what is affecting the deer.

Where can chronic wasting disease be found?

According to the CDC, this disease is present in at least 24 states in the United States and two provinces in Canada. Cases have also been reported in Norway, Finland and South Korea. Chronic wasting disease was first reported in Colorado in the late 1960s. Since then, the disease has spread to involve states in the Midwest, Southeast and east coast. There may be even more cases that we do not yet know about.

How is chronic wasting disease spread and how common is it?

Chronic wasting disease is spread between animals through direct contact with contaminated body tissue or fluids (blood, saliva, urine or feces), or through indirect contact with infected soil, water or food. Once introduced to an area, this disease can spread quickly among animals. Even after an infected animal dies, the risk of it spreading to other animals can last a long time. Although the overall rate of infection in deer, elk and moose across the country is low, infection rates may be as high as 10 to 25 percent in places where it is common.

What are signs of chronic wasting disease?

Animals with chronic wasting disease may not show it for several months to years. But slowly, signs of the disease may develop, including dramatic weight loss, impaired coordination, stumbling, drooling, excessive thirst or urination and aggression. Infected animals may also display a lack of fear of people and may be more out in the open, making them more susceptible to hunting.

Can chronic wasting disease spread to humans?

According to the CDC, there is no evidence that chronic wasting disease occurs in humans or that humans can even get infected. Current studies have also shown no evidence to support the possibility of it spreading to humans. However, one experiment showed that this disease can affect macaques, monkeys that have close genetic similarities to humans.

“There is concern about the potential for the disease to transmit to humans” said Maddox.

If the disease were able to spread to people, the most likely way would be through eating infected deer or elk, and many people eat these animals. In areas where the disease is common, the CDC recommends that hunters strongly consider testing the animals before eating their meat and/or checking with local wildlife or public health departments regarding their testing policies. If animal tests positive, meat from that animal should not be eaten.

Again, the disease, while deadly for animals, has not been known to infect humans. Regardless, proper precautions should be taken in areas where this disease is common.

Amrit K. Kamboj, MD, is an internal medicine resident and member of the ABC News Medical Unit.

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New report recommends ways to prevent depression during pregnancy and postpartum for new moms

kieferpix/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Perinatal depression – which affects women during pregnancy and up to a year after delivery – can be prevented with counseling, according to a new report.

The report from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) is a hopeful sign for women, one in seven of whom are affected by perinatal depression. Despite major medical organizations recommending screening for it over the past several years, half of all women in the U.S. remain undiagnosed and untreated, studies show.

The task force found that women who are at risk for depression (those with socioeconomic risk factors, a history of depression or current depressive symptoms) are most likely to benefit from counseling interventions, specifically cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on changing negative thinking patterns and changing behavioral patterns, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). Interpersonal therapy (IPT) works to improve relationships and social functioning through techniques like role-playing to help reduce distress.

The USPSTF found those two forms of counseling were more effective than other options for women like physical activity, dietary supplements and medicine. The counseling sessions could be done either one-on-one or in group settings.

The USPSTF’s report comes just two months after the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a call for increased screenings of women for perinatal depression.

The AAP now recommends doctors screen mothers for depression once during pregnancy and again at each of their baby's 1, 2, 4 and 6-month checkups. The organization also encourages pediatricians to identify community resources that can help mothers who screen positive for the condition.

Symptoms of perinatal depression include “loss of interest and energy, depressed mood, fluctuations in sleep or eating patterns, reduced ability to think or concentrate, feelings of worthlessness, and recurrent suicidal ideation,” according to the USPSTF.

Symptoms must be present for at least two weeks for the diagnosis. The task force stressed that receiving a diagnosis of perinatal depression is not the same as suffering from "baby blues," or feelings of fatigue, crying and irritability that usually goes away 10 days or less after delivery.

Moms may want to keep a written diary or even document symptoms in a calendar on their smartphone so that they can discuss them with their doctor. Having a journal of how a patient is feeling helps with the diagnosis, experts say.

The task force singled out two counseling programs for women in its findings: the Mothers and Babies Program, which offers a cognitive behavioral therapy approach, and the Reach Out, Stand Strong, Essentials for New Mothers (ROSE) program, which offers an interpersonal therapy approach.

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