Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson (J & J) was hit earlier this year with two jury verdicts in St. Louis, with damage awards totaling $127 million. Both lawsuits were filed by women who say they used J & J’s talcum powder products for years, and that the company knew about studies linking the use of talc with increased risk of ovarian cancer, but chose to ignore those findings in the name of profit. The lawsuits are just two of thousands that have been filed against J & J.
Experts say that because J & J’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower are not technically chemical products, they were not subjected to the rigorous testing normally applied to such consumer products. Talc is a naturally occurring substance—the products simply add a pleasant smell. Nonetheless, as early as 1982, consumers expressed concerns that there might be a link between the use of talcum powder by women and the development of ovarian cancer. In a study conducted at Harvard that year, researchers found that women who used talc on a regular basis had twice the risk of ovarian cancer, and that those who sprinkled the product on sanitary pads and genitals had three times the risk. The litigation filed documents at least 10 other studies that have produced similar results.
What Johnson & Johnson Knew
Evidence in the St. Louis litigation indicates that the company knew in the 1970s that there was a possible link between the use of talc and the development of ovarian cancer. Testimony showed that the company chose to ignore those concerns, instead making the decision to target women who used a lot of talcum powder, in order to increase revenues. A 1992 internal memo from J & J acknowledges the concerns about cancer, but the company has yet to include any kind of warning on its products.
Evidence at the trials in St. Louis also indicate that, subsequent to a study by the U.S. National Toxicology Program finding a clear link between talc and the development of cancer, J & J responded by helping form the Talc Interested Party Task Force (TIPTF), an organization that lobbied to defend talc use. Court documents allege that TIPTF released false information regarding the safety of talc, edited the research of its own scientists to downplay any concerns about talc, and exerted political and economic influence on the FDA for decades.
If you or a loved one has ovarian cancer and used talcum powder, we can help protect your rights. For a free initial consultation, contact us by e-mail or call our offices, in New Brunswick at 732-247-3600 or in Somerville at 908-448-2560.