A jury in California ruled this week that Johnson & Johnson must pay a 63 year-old woman with ovarian cancer $417 million for not warning consumers about the alleged dangers of its baby powder products. (dailycaller.com)
Eva Echeverria was diagnosed with ovarian cancer more than 10 years ago and she filed a personal injury lawsuit after using the company’s hygiene products for more than four decades. Her personal injury attorneys argued during the case that while it might have been the only factor for the growth of her ovarian cancer, they only had to prove the baby powder exposure was a substantial factor.
During the course of the trial, the prosecution pointed to statements from the American Cancer Society to prove their case in part. That organization states on its website that talcum powder could lead to cancer in the ovaries if the powder particles can get through the vagina, uterus and fallopian tubes to the ovary, it is possible that talc free of asbestos in laboratory animal tests can lead to the formation of tumors in some cases.
Four Week Trial Led to Plaintiff Victory
After a trial of four weeks, and hours of testimony from oncologists, pathologists and many medical specialists that were summoned by the defense and the prosecution, the jury ruled for the plaintiff.
Out of six talcum powder trials, this is #5 that J&J has lost related to allegations over baby powder causing cancer. J&J is now set to pay at least $300 million for all of the trials, but it is going to appeal this latest ruling. The company still faces more than 4500 claims this year.
J&J has stated publicly that it has sympathy for people who have gotten ovarian cancer, but studies support the safety of the company’s baby powder products.
According to a spokeswoman from J&J, ovarian cancer is a ‘devastating diagnosis’ and the company has deep sympathies for families affected by the disease. But J&J plans to appeal the latest verdict because the company believes in the science, which it claims is in support of the safety of the baby powder.
The company also quoted the National Cancer Institute’s Physician Data Query Editorial Board, which stated that most of the evidence does not support any association between perineal talcum powder exposure and a higher risk of ovarian cancer. The company concluded it is readying for more talcum powder trials in the United States, and it is going to continue to defend its baby powder products as safe for consumer use.
More Information About Talcum Powder and Cancer
According to Cancer.org, it is important to distinguish whether you are talking about talc that has asbestos in it and talc that is completely free of it. Talc that contains traces of asbestos is generally accepted to be cancer causing, if inhaled. But the evidence about talc that is free of asbestos is murky. (cancer.org)
Clinical researchers use two types of studies to determine if exposure or a substance can cause cancer:
- Laboratory studies: In clinical studies performed in the lab, animals are exposed to the substance, typically in large doses, to determine if it can cause health problems, such as tumors. Clinical researchers also may expose regular cells in a laboratory dish to determine if it causes the sort of changes that are seen in some cancer cells. It is not always completely clear if results from these studies can be applied to humans, but laboratory studies are a good way to determine if the substance could lead to cancer.
- Studies in humans: Another sort of study looks at rates of cancer in various groups of people. This type of study could compare the rate of cancer in a group that was exposed to a certain substance to the rate in a group of people that was not exposed. Or you might compare it to what the expected rate of cancer would be in the overall population. But it can be difficult to know what the results of these clinical studies really me4an, because other factors may affect the end results.
In the majority of cases, neither type of clinical study will give enough evidence on its own. So, clinical researchers usually will review lab-based and human-based studies when trying to determine if a substance causes cancer.
Ovarian Cancer Human Studies
Many plaintiffs around the country have suggested that talcum powder may lead to cancer in the ovaries if the powder can get into the ovaries. Many studies in females have looked at a potential link between the powder and ovarian cancer. But the findings have been cloudy at best. Some studies report a bit of a higher risk, and some have reported no increase at all. Many studies that are case controlled have determined there is a small increase in the risk.
But these studies can actually be biased because they may rely on the person’s memory of using talc from decades ago. One cohort study, which did not have the same sort of possible bias, has not seen a higher risk. A second did find a mild increase in risk of one sort of ovarian cancer.
Big Pharma Company Pays Woman With Ovarian Cancer $417 Million for Baby Powder Case. (2017). Retrieved from https://dailycaller.com/2017/08/21/big-pharma-company-pays-woman-with-ovarian-cancer-417-million-for-baby-powder-case/
Talcum Powder and Cancer. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/talcum-powder-and-cancer.html