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J&J talcum powder can cause ovarian cancer; brand loses third trial in California and asked to pay $70 million to complainant

In the United States, Johnson & Johnson has lost a third straight trial while defending a claim that its talcum powder can cause ovarian cancer. Deciding against evidences, arguments and justifications given by the company’s lawyers, a St Louis jury awarded a California woman who had sued the company more than $70 million.

In India, J&J talcum powder, especially its baby powder, is a most preferred and the highest sold commodity in its category. On the other hand, in the United States the company is an accused in about 1,700 lawsuits in state and federal court for ignoring studies linking its baby powder and Shower-to-Shower talc products to ovarian cancer. The company is also facing lawsuits for failing to warn customers about the risk. The May 2017 verdict follows damages verdicts of $72 million and $55 million against the company this year in the first two ‘harmful effects of talc claims’ to go to trial in St Louis. Both are being appealed.

News published in all international mediums, including Daily Mail and Chicago Times, state that Deborah Giannecchini, 62, used J&J's baby powder for feminine hygiene for more than four decades until her diagnosis with ovarian cancer three years ago. She has an 80 per cent chance of dying in the next two years, and has already undergone surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

A J&J unit was ordered to pay $65 million in punitive damages and 90 per cent of about $2.5 million for medical costs and pain and suffering. Co-defendant Imerys Talc America, the supplier of the talc, was hit with $2.5 million in punitive damages. Jurors returned the verdict after deliberating for about three hours.

The company should have provided a warning label on the product to let consumers decide whether to use the talc, one juror, Billie Ray of St Louis, said after the trial. “It seemed like Johnson & Johnson didn’t pay attention. It seemed like they didn’t care,” she had said in a formal media statement.

The company, however, is sticking to its claim and its spokesperson has stated that J&J will appeal in courts of higher order.

“This verdict serves to undermine efforts by the scientific community to determine the true causes of ovarian cancer; the theories relied upon by plaintiffs’ experts lacked scientific foundation,” the company said in a statement.

According to various media reports, Johnson & Johnson is facing hundreds of claims in St Louis state court as well as about 300 suits in Los Angeles and another 200 in New Jersey. As per a Bloomberg report, overall the company has paid $5 billion in judgements, settlements or fines related to its drugs and medical devices since 2013.

Divya Patwal


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