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Johnson & Johnson Set to Cough Up $4.7 Billion in Damages


After reports were made that Johnson & Johnson’s talc products led to 22 women contracting ovarian cancer, the company has been hit with an incredible $4.7 billion damages fee. The figure was arrived at after an initial hearing in Missouri, a U.S. state awarded the women $500 million in compensation. Later on, the punitive charges were increased by $4.1 billion.

In response to the verdict, Johnson and Johnson exclaimed that they were extremely disappointed before stating that they would seek to appeal the decision. After an intense 6-week trial, 22 women and their families stated their case and made it known that they contacted ovarian cancer after becoming habitual users of the company’s brand of baby powder and an assortment of other talc product. Amazingly, of the 22 women enjoined in the case, 6 have already succumbed to ovarian cancer.

The judgement comes hot on the heels of 9,000 other legal cases that the company has been trying to extinguish after complains were made about their signature baby powder product

Lawyers representing the women and their families have echoed out a similar tune. They claim that Johnson & Johnson was already aware that their products contained harmful asbestos since the 1970s but failed to take action on the issue.

As a mineral, talc is usually mined from the ground, usually in close proximity to asbestos. All through the hearing, Johnson & Johnson refuted the claims that their products contain asbestos. They even went to the point of emphasizing that their products didn’t contain any cancer-causing elements.

Concepts

In a bid to ascertain the facts, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has commissioned a study to review a handful of talc varieties. Some of the products in review include J&J produced between 2009 and 2010. In their analysis, they were unable to detect traces of asbestos in them.

For a number of years, the debate about the safety-worthiness of talc products has raged on. Many believe that using talcum powder around the genitals can enhance the odds of one contracting ovarian cancer. However, there has not been much evidence to support this notion. Notably, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has categorically listed out the use of talc on genitalia as “possibly carcinogenic”. The reason behind this classification is because of the distorted and mixed proof.

In it’s naturally occurring form, talc contains the harmful cancer-causing asbestos. Johnson & Johnson have come to the fore in defense of their product as they cite that they have been using asbestos-free talc since the 1970s. The only problem is that studies conducted on asbestos-free talc have produced contradicting findings.

A couple of studies have shown that using asbestos-free talc can lead to the development of a number of cancer maladies. There have been concerns raised about the validity of such statements since most of the research conducted on individuals was based on respondents remembering the quantities of talc they used for a number of years. The jury is still out there because other studies have found zero co-relation between contracting ovarian cancer and the use of talc products.

Verdict

The latest verdict represents the single largest payout Johnson & Johnson have faced

Most of the 22 women in the case reside outside Missouri. Their cases were presented to the court in a combined fashion known as forum shopping. After the ruling, Johnson & Johnson expressed optimism that the ruling would be reversed.

Ovacome, a charity organization that concerns itself with the matter, has been quick to point out that evidence for a link is not fathomable. They’ve based their thinking on the fact that ovarian cancer is a relatively rare condition and that talc product are likely to play a minor role in their prevalence. They’ve also noted that talc cancer is usually the result of several factors coming at play, inherited genetics, and environmental factors. Talc just happens to play a minor role.

The charity organization has opined that if talc was actually responsible for a slight increase in the probability of women contracting ovarian cancer, not all women expose to talc products would likely contract the malady.

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