J&J to pay $417m in talc cancer case

Johnson & Johnson has been ordered to pay $417 million to a woman claiming to have developed ovarian cancer after using its talc-based baby powder products for feminine hygiene.

The verdict is a blow for J&J, which faces claims from thousands of women who say they developed cancer due to using the firm’s products for vaginal odour and moisture.

It has lost four out of five previous cases tried before juries in Missouri, leading to more than $300m in penalties.

This is despite the link between using talc as a feminine hygiene product and cancer not having been proved.

However the International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies talc used on the genitals as “possibly carcinogenic” because of the mixed evidence.

Nevertheless, J&J has defended the safety of its products following the decision from a jury in California.

It is the largest award in a string of lawsuits alleging the firm did not warn about cancer risks from talc-based products.

J&J said it plans to appeal against the case. In its natural form, talc contains asbestos, but all products used in homes in the US have been asbestos-free since the 1970s.

The link between modern asbestos-free talc and cancer is inconclusive. Studies on animals looking for a link have produced mixed results, and confounding factors make evidence suggesting a link from case-control studies difficult to interpret.

Eva Echeverria raised the California lawsuit – the 63 year-old woman said she began using baby powder when she was 11.

She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer 10 years ago, and the diagnosis is terminal, her lawyers said.

The verdict included $70 million in compensation and $347 million in punitive damages.

In a statement, J&J cited the National Cancer Institute’s Physician Data Query Editorial Board, which said the ‘weight of evidence does not support association between perineal talc exposure and risk of ovarian cancer’.

Carol Goodrich, global media relations at J&J Consumer, said: “Ovarian cancer is a devastating diagnosis and we deeply sympathise with the women and families impacted by this disease.”

“We will appeal today’s verdict because we are guided by the science, which supports the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder.”

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