As pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson faces additional lawsuits
regarding the link between ovarian cancer and baby powder, a judge has
ruled that the claims of conspiracy on the part of J & J are valid.
The conspiracy claim alleges J & J purposefully engaged in concealing
information on cancer risks from those using the company's two brands
of talcum powder-J & J Baby Powder and Shower to Shower talcum powder.
Concealing known information of cancer risks from consumers is a potentially
Marketing Push to Continue Sales of Talcum Powder Despite Adverse Reports
Talcum powder was originally most often used on babies as a means of preventing
diaper rash. Once Johnson & Johnson learned women were using Johnson's
Baby Powder as a body powder, a full-blown marketing push occurred. J
& J even added to its line with the introduction of Shower-to-Shower
talcum powder marketed directly to women. As far back as 1982, studies
suggested a link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer and a 1968 study
concluded the fibers in talc were similar to those found in asbestos.
In 2008 the FDA received multiple petitions asking that talcum powder be
regulated, but all those requests were either unacknowledged or were denied
outright due to lobbying efforts by Johnson & Johnson. A 2013 study
was published in Cancer Prevention Research which found that women who
used talcum powder in the genital area had a 20-30 percent greater risk
of developing ovarian cancer. Johnson & Johnson refused to remove
their talcum powder products from the store shelves, and continued to
sell the products without warnings of the danger.
Lawsuits Against J & J and Others
The first lawsuit regarding the use of talcum powder and its link to ovarian
cancer was filed in October, 2013. A 56-year old woman, diagnosed with
ovarian cancer in 2006, claimed Johnson & Johnson knew, or should
have known, their Shower-to-Shower talcum powder product could potentially
cause ovarian cancer. Despite that knowledge, no warnings were provided
with the powder other than to avoid contact with eyes, avoid inhalation
and keep away from children. The woman's cancerous ovarian tissues
were examined by three doctors who found talc in the tissues, leading
them to determine the talc directly caused her ovarian cancer.
While a South Dakota jury found in favor of the plaintiff in this case,
the products remained on store shelves, and the company still refused
to issue warnings regarding the use of talcum powder. At that trial, one
expert witness testified talcum powder could be a contributing factor
in as many as 10,000 annual cases of ovarian cancer. Following this successful
talcum powder lawsuit came a wrongful death case from Missouri. The Missouri
case is the first to allege conspiracy, and is brought by the husband
of the woman who used talc products from 1972 to the time of her death
in 2011. This woman battled ovarian cancer for more than three years;
the lawsuit names Johnson & Johnson, Imerys Talc America and other
defendants and alleges civil conspiracy and concert of action. A jury
trial in this case has been scheduled for March 7, 2016.
Under the concert of action theory, Johnson & Johnson launched a task
force whose express purpose was to pool financial resources in order to
defend talc use at all costs. It is hard to imagine a company who would
willfully ignore large bodies of research which correlate the use of talc
with the development of ovarian cancer. Approximately 21,980 new cases
of ovarian cancer will be diagnosed each year, and 14,270 of those women
diagnosed with ovarian cancer will die from the disease. Scientists believe
talc particles, when applied to the genital area, can travel into a woman's
body, triggering inflammation, and giving cancer cells the opportunity
to flourish. It is believed that at least 40 percent of all women regularly
use talc powders for personal hygiene.