Women's Health

Ovarian Cancer News: Johnson & Johnson in Court Again

Ovarian Cancer News: Johnson & Johnson in Court Again

Ovarian Cancer News: Johnson & Johnson in Court Again

Johnson & Johnson, “The Family Company,” is spending a lot of time in court these days. Various lawsuits for several of their products have kept their private attorneys busy. Recent legal battles involved serious issues with their transvaginal mesh and hip implant products. The latest in this rash of court cases centers on allegations that their talcum powder (both Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder and their Shower to Shower talc) is the cause of ovarian cancer for more than 1,000 women.

63-year-old former medical receptionist Eva Echeverria started using the powder at age 11 on her perineal area. In 2007, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and she continued to use the talcum powder as a feminine hygiene product until last year when she heard about the link between the powder and the development of ovarian cancer. Since she developed ovarian cancer after using the Johnson baby powder, she was awarded $417 million by a Los Angeles jury. Her court evidence was videotaped since she was terminally ill and was unable to appear in court. She wanted others to be aware of the risk of using the powder.

According to Welsh studies, particles of talc were found imbedded in both ovarian and cervical tumors. In the past, asbestos was used to make the talcum powder, which is actually a cancer-causing material according to the American Cancer Society. A report released in April by the National Cancer Institute, however, stated that there is no evidence that supports a connection between perineal talc exposure and a higher risk of ovarian cancer. So it is still not clear whether or not one’s risk of ovarian cancer is increased by talcum powder. According to scientists, the talc crystals reach the peritoneal cavity through the genitourinary tract to the ovaries. Here, they cause inflammation, which plays a role in the development of ovarian cancer.

There has been a growing awareness regarding the charges against the company. According to Dr. Jennifer Ashton, women using talcum powder in the genital area have a 33 percent risk of getting cancer. Other talcum powder litigations include:

  • 2013: Johnson & Johnson was found guilty of negligence, but the women with ovarian cancer who were in remission were not awarded any settlement.
  • May, 2016: The families of the women who died of ovarian cancer due to long-term use of Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder were given $72 million.
  • May, 2016: A women in Missouri was awarded $55 million for the same allegations.
  • May, 2017: A women in Virginia was awarded $110 million.

A common aspect of the lawsuits is a request by the filing women that a safety warning be put on the talcum powder regarding the chances of contracting ovarian cancer if used in the perineal area. 

Talc is obtained through mining mineral deposits. Asbestos, a carcinogen, and talc are intermingled with each other during the extraction process. In addition to the well-known lung condition mesothelioma, asbestos can also cause ovarian and urinary tumors. Because of this, talcum was classified as a possible carcinogen in 2006 by the International Agency for Research. The FDA asks manufacturers to take steps to prevent and avoid an asbestos contamination in their talc products.

Last year, more stringent screening was called for by the United States Pharmacopoeia to identify asbestos. In order to properly identify the contamination, the agency is working on the use of transmission electron microscopes, which can magnify tiny particles, for better analysis.