Following the recent opening of a Johnson and Johnson (J&J) outlet in South Africa, the United States drug giant is committed to expanding its reach even further to Kenya and Ghana. This is a move by the company to increase the availability of its products to consumers on this side of the world. The chief executive of J&J, Alex Gorsky, reveals that the expansion will boost development for the continent while also providing easy access to drugs for prevailing diseases on the continent like HIV/AIDS.
J&J is developing a long-acting injectable HIV drug alongside ViiV Healthcare, an AIDS therapy joint effort by GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer. “Part of it is building those kinds of relationships, those kinds of capabilities that over the long term are going to result in a very significant market opportunity for us,” Gorsky said.
According to Fortune, Johnson & Johnson will increase drug distribution to local clinics and healthcare practitioners and train them in fundamental skills, such as proper medication storage and medical testing.
However, while it is a great idea for J&J to be interested in being closer to Africans as a way of supplying the healthcare products they obviously need, it is a fact that other products by the company will be sold alongside the HIV/AIDS drugs. There have been reports that J&J may be profiting off the sale of talcum powder to black women who do not know of its correlation to cancer and carcinogens. As University of Texas Professor, Omise’eke Natasha Tinsley puts it in her TIME article from yesterday, J&J and other healthcare companies like it may be targeting black women’s bodies through the sale of talcum powder which has chemicals in it that could result in cancer.
In February 2016, the company paid $72 million in damages to the family of the late Jacqueline Fox, a black woman who battled with advanced ovarian cancer after years of using the company’s talcum powder to freshen her panties before wearing them. Like Tinsley says, for decades, companies, including Johnson & Johnson, continued marketing to encourage black women to spend money on talcum powder, which could cause cancer in their reproductive organs even as they promise to “freshen” them. Because buyers were women, they were the advertisers’ targets; because they were women, they were vulnerable to side effects which the companies never exposed.
This is something to think about as the company seeks to expand its reach in Africa.