This week, a jury in St. Louis, Missouri, awarded nearly 4.7 billion dollars in damages to 22 women who claim they developed ovarian cancer as a result of using the popular Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) brand of talc mineral powder.
For many of us, baby powder is a household staple. It’s been used as a diaper rash preventative, deodorant, and an ingredient in cosmetics— and the Johnson’s & Johnson’s brand was the first on the market, entering stores back in 1894. Generations of people have used this popular product on their families and themselves— and now, more than 100 years later, a court has decided that it may be linked to cancer.
Mark Lanier, the women’s lawyer, stated J&J has covered up the presence of asbestos in their baby powder for more than 40 years.
During the trial, medical experts testified that asbestos is mixed with talc mineral, the product’s primary ingredient. While asbestos is commonly found near talc mines, it is supposed to be removed from commercial products prior to sale. Now, the women claim that as a result of the dangerous levels of asbestos in J&J baby powder, they have developed ovarian cancer.
Six of the twenty-two plaintiffs have already died from the disease, and medical experts revealed during the trial that asbestos and talc fibers were found in many of the women’s ovarian tissues, reported CBC.
After the trial, the women’s lawyer stated: “We hope this verdict will get the attention of the J&J board and that it will lead them to better inform the medical community and the public about the connection between asbestos, talc, and ovarian cancer.”
“The company should pull talc from the market before causing further anguish, harm, and death from a terrible disease.”
Johnson & Johnson spokesperson Carol Goodrich says the company plans on appealing the jury’s decision, calling the verdict the result of “unfair” process. “Johnson & Johnson remains confident that its products do not contain asbestos and do not cause ovarian cancer and intends to pursue all available appellate remedies,” she stated.
“Yes, this is terrible,” the company’s lawyer said.
“But just because something terrible happened doesn’t mean Johnson & Johnson had anything to do with it.”
While it’s true that J&J have appealed and had similar decisions overturned in the past, this is the first time it’s been revealed that J&J scientists expressed concerns about asbestos contamination decades ago— only to be ignored by company execs.
It is also one of the first to focus on asbestos in the talc causing ovarian cancer, as opposed to the talc itself.
Lanier, the women’s lawyer, claimed J&J knew their products were contaminated with asbestos and intentionally kept the information from reaching the public through “rigged” tests and laboratory partnerships.
In recent years, many J&J products have undergone public scrutiny. Items such as surgical mesh, metal-on-metal hip replacements, and blood thinning medications have all been linked to serious injury, been subject to patient lawsuits, and at times, even pulled from the market.
This past May, J&J was also hit with a $21.7 million jury verdict from a woman named Joanne Anderson. The 68-year-0ld was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a form of cancer closely linked to asbestos exposure, which she also claimed she acquired as a result of using J&J baby powder.
According to the New York Times, the jury’s decision to award the women $4.7 billion is a historic ruling, marking the largest amount ever awarded in a product liability case. The amount was calculated using a formula that included the annual revenue from baby powder ($70 million) along with the number of years talc has been an issue. The author of the New York Time article noted:
“The size of the award sends a message that should be heard by the whole drug and medical device industry: Stop placing profits over safety.”
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Source: Time via Tout