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Johnson & Johnson's Reputation Harmed by Talcum Powder Litigation

Oct 28, 2016

 Talcum Powder Litigation

An article published in May 2016 in the advertising industry publication Ad Age says the recent losses in talcum powder lawsuits have had a negative effect on the image of health care giant Johnson & Johnson.

According to the advertising industry publication Ad Age, the lawsuits have resulted in major financial losses for the company from payouts to plaintiffs and a significant decline in the company’s score on the YouGov BrandIndex Buzz score. Johnson & Johnson reached its lowest score in three years, according to the site.

J&J consumer sales have recovered steadily in recent years as the company implemented a 2011 consent decree with the Fooimd and Drug Administration to resolve manufacturing quality issues. The pain reliever Tylenol and other products were largely absent from shelves or in short supply for years after safety recalls more than six years ago.

Many women have filed lawsuits claiming that J&J’s talcum powder is linked to the development of ovarian cancer, Digital Journal reports. The plaintiffs have alleged that Johnson & Johnson concealed information about the cancer risks and should be held responsible for the illnesses. The lawsuits come from cancer survivors and the families of women who have died.

In their lawsuits, the plaintiffs allege that Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower body powder are responsible for their ovarian cancer. Legal documents indicate that the women used talcum power regularly for feminine hygiene, applying the powder to their genitals or sprinkling powder on their underwear or sanitary pads. Many of the plaintiffs say they used talcum powder for decades before their cancer diagnoses, though some say they had used talcum powder for just a few years.

Over the last four decades, studies have found that women who use baby powder as a feminine hygiene product have an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer. Johnson & Johnson has never placed cancer warnings on the labels of its talcum powders.

Two talcum powder cancer cases that went to trial in St. Louis this year resulted in jury awards of $55 million and $72 million, one award to a cancer survivor, the other to the family of a woman who died. J&J appealed the $55 million award but the court upheld the award.

The bad publicity from talcum powder cases may continue. The multidistrict talc litigation consolidated in federal court in St. Louis includes more than 1,000 more cases.

Johnson & Johnson has faced bad publicity in other areas of its business. The attorneys general in California and Washington have filed lawsuits charging that Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon division did not properly disclose risks of pelvic mesh devices to women or their doctors. These devices are used to treat women’s pelvic organ prolapse and incontinence, but thousands of women have experienced injuries and complications from the mesh and have filed lawsuits against Ethicon and other pelvic mesh makers. And there have been jury verdicts against Janssen Pharmaceuticals in lawsuits alleging the antipsychotic drug Risperdal caused breast growth in males (gynecomastia), Digital Journal reports. Bloomberg reports that over all, Johnson & Johnson has paid about $5 billion in judgments, settlements, and fines related to its drugs and medical devices since 2013.

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