Sunday, December 17, 2017

Is Johnson & Johnson's talcum powder perilous?

4,800 file suits contending baby powder caused their ovarian cancer, N.Y. Times reports

Consumer goods giant Johnson & Johnson is being sued by thousands of women in the United States over its baby powder.

According to a recent story by Tiffany Hsu in The New York Times, the women, at least 4,800 strong, claim that "talcum particles in the popular products caused their ovarian cancer."

The plaintiffs "are taking the company to court one at a time," the story says, rather than work together to file a class action that can be tough to win. 

In addition to seeking restitution, they "are asking that Johnson & Johnson add a warning to its baby powder label or replace the product entirely with a similar one formulated with cornstarch."

Only seven cases have been decided so far. Of those, six verdicts favored those who sued.

Johnson & Johnson — which is also facing suits regarding Xarelto alleging that the drug caused uncontrollable bleeding, and its pelvic mesh for women, which supposedly caused "urinary dysfunction, loss of sexual function, constipation and other complications" — is appealing those verdicts.

Pretrial procedures "in nearly 900 talc cases have been consolidated into what is known as a multidistrict litigation, or MDL," according to the Times. "MDLs tend to reduce costs and time. Only one set of expert witnesses needs to be called."
Nora Freeman Engstrom
Hsu's story quotes Stanford Law School prof Nora Freeman Engstrom to the effect that no global settlement can be reached "until both sides have a really clear sense of the strengths and weaknesses and value of these claims. And the only way to test that is on the battlefield, which is trial."

The plaintiffs in the newest suits cite studies from 1977 on and claim "that talc in baby powder can be absorbed by the reproductive system and cause inflammation in the ovaries when applied for feminine hygiene purposes."

Experts don't necessarily support the plaintiffs' claims, however.

Hsu's story also quotes the National Cancer Institute website, for example, that "the weight of evidence does not support an association between perineal talc exposure and an increased risk of ovarian cancer."

Information on other studies about apparent heightened risks can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

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