Johnson & Johnson, the world’s largest pharmaceutical and medical device maker, is facing a personal injury lawsuit that claims its world famous baby powder causes ovarian cancer in women. The lawsuit was brought by the family of Jackie Fox, who died at the age of 62 of ovarian cancer in 2014 after enduring many rounds of chemotherapy. It was alleged in a Saint Louis Missouri state court that talc in J&J’s products caused her disease. It was also alleged that the company knew the risk and failed to warn customers.
Talcum powder is derived from talc, which is a hydrated magnesium silicate. Talc is most popular as baby powder, which used to prevent or treat rashes in babies, and body powders used for personal hygiene and cosmetics. However, over the years the material has been found to potentially cause serious and life-threatening ovarian cancer issues when used for feminine hygiene. There are currently more 1,200 talc ovarian cancer lawsuits pending in state and federal courts nationwide.
Researchers began linking talc to ovarian cancer in the 1970s. In 1982, a study found that women who reported genital-talc use faced a 92 percent increase in the risk of developing ovarian cancer. A subsequent study published in the journal Epidemiology found that talc was associated with a 33 percent rise in the risk of ovarian cancer. In 1999, the American Cancer Society advised that women use corn starch-based products in the genital area instead of materials containing talc.
According to the plaintiffs in the case, Johnson & Johnson’s internal documents show knowledge of the studies connecting talc use and ovarian cancer, but the company continued to market it. The company marketed its Shower to Shower brand talc specifically for feminine hygiene. About six months before she died, Fox said in a deposition that she was “raised on” Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower talc and used it every morning until she was diagnosed with cancer. The trial in the case is currently underway and is expected to last two to three weeks.
Over the past 10 years, Johnson & Johnson has faced hundreds of thousands personal injury and defective product liability lawsuits. The company’s DePuy line of ASR and Pinnacle metal on metal hip implants have been accused of causing metallosis and failing prematurely, sometimes requiring surgical intervention. Its Ethicon line of vaginal mesh and bladder sling inserts have been found to cause perforations and chronic pain. The company’s line of Duragesic Pain fentanyl patches have been responsible for overdoses and death. Its Risperdal antipsychotic medication has been accused of causing gynecomastia (male breast growth) in young boys. The list goes on and on.