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Johnson & Johnson was recently found liable for damages caused by its talcum powder based hygiene products in a $127 million judgement, opening the door for future claims and worrying the public about the risks associated with talc based products. What should be most alarming is just how long Johnson & Johnson knew about an established link between ovarian cancer and talcum based products and the efforts which were taken to cover up and disregard the evidence. Women everywhere have a right to feel outrage against a company that has chosen to profit for decades while knowing that its products were responsible for an untold number of premature deaths.
First Talcum Lawsuit Reveals Cancer Link
Diane Berg was a faithful user of Johnson & Johnson talcum powder for her entire life until she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2006. She used the products as they were advertised, following instructions to use to freshen, prevent odor and keep her genitals dry. Never in her decades of use did she notice a warning label on any of these products which disclosed the possibility that long term exposure to talc could cause cancer. In 2009, she filed a lawsuit on behalf of herself and the many other women who would suffer a similar fate.
Johnson & Johnson offered her over $1.3 million in 2013 to settle out of court, but they inserted a confidentiality clause into the agreement. Diane refused to take the settlement because she was appalled at the efforts being taken to sweep the matter under the rug and hide it from the public. During her case, it was proven that there was a link between talcum powder and cancer, but she was not awarded any financial compensation for her injuries.
In subsequent lawsuits, Johnson & Johnson would be required to pay over $127 million in compensation to two families who lost loved ones to ovarian cancer linked to talcum powder use. One of the verdicts cited the company for negligence, failure to warn and conspiracy.
A Conspiracy Spanning Four Decades
Documents that were presented during this case showed that Johnson & Johnson were aware of possible links between talc use and cancer for over 40 years, but chose to repeatedly conceal the information and keep it from the public. This information was gleaned from internal studies as well as private research. Because this information was known and the pharmaceutical giant chose to purposefully hide it from its customers, a jury declared it criminal negligence.
Many of the studies used to support this cancer link seem to rely on anecdotal evidence and it is impossible to confirm the amount of product used, frequency and the duration of use. It was the internal documents presented suggesting that Johnson & Johnson knew of a clear risk that were the most damning. Had this risk been disclosed on the product’s label, the company would not have been liable for any claims, but Johnson & Johnson feared a warning would negatively impact sales. Many women are now coming forward in an effort to seek vindication for all of those who died needlessly because Johnson & Johnson cared more about making money than protecting the public.
Johnson & Johnson is currently appealing the ruling in an effort to save its own reputation, but many women are beginning to look to alternatives in the wake of this lawsuit’s developments. The American Cancer Society has already recommended that women turn to products with a cornstarch base instead of talc. Oddly enough, Johnson & Johnson has already offered its own line of cornstarch based hygiene products— a move that should have been made over 40 years ago.