Johnson & Johnson (J&J) suffered yet another major blow to its brand on Monday August 21st, when a Los Angeles County judge ordered them to pay $417 million in damages to a plaintiff who alleged she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer as a result of using their talcum power products. While this is certainly not the first case regarding J&J’s powder to be decided upon, it is the the largest verdict to date. Three verdicts have been made to victims in Missouri for a total of $237 million this year, too.
Johnson and Johnson, after having broken records in 2016 for record verdicts against a major company in one year, apparently is looking to even break last year’s record year with the year it continues to have in 2017. See more here.
Talc is a clay-based mineral derived from both magnesium and silicon. Many times, these elements are mined in close proximity to asbestos, and there is a possibility of contamination. For this reason, steps are prevented to promote quality control.
Eva Echeverria, age 63, started using J&J’s talcum product when she was eleven years old. She did this, like many Americans, to sooth irritation and prevent chafing on her inner thigh and groin. Echeverria was under the impression that the powder was safe. Her case is just one of the over 4,500 nationwide and the over 300 in California pending.
Many studies suggest that there is a link between talcum-based powder use and eventual ovarian cancer diagnosis. The first of these reports dates back to 1971, where Welsh scientists found traces of talc in both ovarian and cervical tumors in patients that had used the products for an extended period of time. Another study, which was cited by plaintiff’s attorneys, stated that there was a 92% increase in ovarian cancer in patients that used talcum powder.
A third study done by Harvard Medical School in conjunction with the National Nurse Health Study gave ambiguous results, which can be capitalized on by attorneys for both plaintiffs and defendants. While the conclusion of the study stated that there was not a connection between talc and ovarian cancer, it does state that there is a “modest elevation in risk” for one variety of the disease, the type Echeverria was diagnosed with. Many other unmentioned analyses take a similar tone: While they cannot definitively say that talc leads to cancer, researchers are not so quick to dismiss any cause-effect relationship between the two.
Talc, if it is placed around the genitals, is classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a possible carcinogen.
Ovarian cancer accounts for 1.3% of all diagnosed cancers in the United States, and less than 50% of all women diagnosed survive five years after a tumor is found.
While this was a victory for patients in the short term, J&J stated that they are planning to appeal the decision. Attorneys for J&J are confident that they will be successful because “[they] are guided by the science, which supports the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder.”
While that claim is certainly up for debate, here’s hoping that everyone that has been afflicted by ovarian cancer by way of J&J’s talculm powder products gets the justice they deserve.