Johnson & Johnson fined $417 million in talc cancer suit

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The jury found that Johnson & Johnson failed to adequately warn users of the cancer risks of the talc in its baby powder.

According to Reuters, California jury verdict in a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson's (NYSE: JNJ) talcum powder based products cause cancer and ended in the company paying $417 million to a California resident, who developed ovarian cancer after using Johnson and Johnson's baby powder product.

"While on the whole studies have seen a modest increase in the risk of ovarian cancer in women who use talc on their genitals, the evidence isn't completely clear", says Cancer Research UK. "In April, the National Cancer Institute's Physician Data Query Editorial Board wrote, 'The weight of evidence does not support an association between perineal talc exposure and an increased risk of ovarian cancer.' We are preparing for additional trials in the USA and we will continue to defend the safety of Johnson's Baby Powder".

The plaintiff, Eva Echeverria, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007 after using Johnson's Baby Powder since the 1950s.

She said in her lawsuit that she developed ovarian cancer as a "proximate result of the unreasonably risky and defective nature of talcum powder".

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After two days of deliberation, the jury awarded Echeverria $70 million in compensatory damages and $347 million in punitive damages. The amount the court has ordered Johnson & Johnson for this lawsuit is more than the total of other talc lawsuits, which totaled to $307 million. The evidence in the case included internal documents from several decades that "showed the jury that Johnson & Johnson knew about the risks of talc and ovarian cancer", Mr. Robinson said.

Johnson & Johnson declined to comment on the verdict, but Carol Goodrich, Johnson & Johnson's spokeswoman, said in a statement that the company will appeal the verdict. Since inflammation increases the risk of cancer, it's possible that talc causes cancer.

Similar lawsuits in hundreds of cases have been filed and are pending. And their blood test shows ovarian cancer early.

The company immediately announced it would seek to overturn Monday's verdict, saying science supports the safety of Johnson & Johnson's Baby Powder. Asbestos, a known cancer-causing agent, naturally forms in talcum powder. Echeverria started using J&J's talc powder products when she was 11.

To get around the hindsight bias, researchers could track a group of healthy women over a number of years to find out if those that used talcum powder were more likely to develop ovarian cancer.

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