Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder products should have carried a cancer warning since 1982, jurors heard during an expert testimony. The company is accused of failing to disclose that its talcum powder products, including Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower, can increase the risk of ovarian cancer when used in the genital region for feminine hygiene. Jurors are currently hearing arguments in the case.
Talcum powder litigation has gained more attention in light of two large verdicts issued this year. Jurors awarded $72 million to the family of a woman who died of ovarian cancer. Another jury awarded $55 million to a woman diagnosed with ovarian and endometrial cancer, allegedly due to talcum powder.
Plaintiffs argue that the fine talc particles can travel up the female reproductive tract and reach the ovaries, where they can build up and trigger the type of inflammation that leads to cancer growth.
Law360 reports that David C. Steinberg, who runs a topical over-the-counter drug compliance consulting firm and founded the Cosmetic Preservatives Council, provided expert testimony at trial. He pointed to a 1982 study linking talcum powder to ovarian cancer, and noted subsequent studies with similar findings. Steinberg says J&J should have warned of ovarian cancer with its talcum powder products.
The link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer first emerged in 1971, when a study published in a British journal found talc particles embedded in ovarian tumors. Steinberg testified that most manufacturers stay up-to-date with relevant medical research because it allows them to keep up with safety concerns, business problems or opportunities.
Steinberg also criticized the way J&J handled the prospect of talcum powder studies, citing 1994 documents showing the company did not want to pay for them. J&J wanted the government to fund the research instead, which Steinberg said was the wrong move. “If you want to be self-regulated, step up to the plate and pay for the studies,” he said, according to Law360. “If you don’t want to be self-regulated, then have the taxpayers pay for it. I don’t think you can have it both ways.”
The plaintiff is a woman who was diagnosed with Stage 4 ovarian cancer, allegedly due to using talcum powder in the genital region for many years. She alleges that J&J and talc supplied Imerys Talc failed to disclose this information despite being aware of the risks. Jurors heard that her life expectancy is greatly reduced as a result of her cancer. She alleges that had she been informed, she would not have used talcum powder for feminine hygiene.