Expert Testimony: J&J Talcum Powder Should have Carried Cancer Warning Since 1982

During an expert testimony, jurors heard that Johnson & Johnson should have placed an ovarian cancer warning on its talcum powder products since 1982. The expert testimony was given by David C. Steinberg, who runs a topical over-the-counter drug compliance consulting firm. Steinberg, who also founded the Cosmetic Preservatives Council, cited a study in 1982 and others linking talcum powder use in the genital area to an increased risk of ovarian cancer.

Some women use talcum powder products in their underwear or sanitary napkins for feminine hygiene. Plaintiffs in the talcum powder litigation allege that the fine talc particles can travel up the female reproductive tract and reach the ovaries, where they can build up and trigger the type of inflammation that leads to cancer growth. Lawsuits allege that J&J failed to disclose this risk to the public.

According to Law360, talcum powder was first linked to ovarian cancer in a 1971 British journal, which documented talc particles embedded in ovarian tumors. Other studies have had similar findings since then. During his testimony, Steinberg said that most manufacturers stay up-to-date with the most recent medical research. This allows device makers to keep up with safety concerns, business problems or opportunities.

Steinberg also cited 1994 documents showing that J&J did not want to fund studies analyzing the safety of talc. The company wanted the government to pay for it instead, which Steinberg says was inappropriate. “If you want to be self-regulated, step up to the plate and pay for the studies,” he said, according to Law360. “If you don’t want to be self-regulated, then have the taxpayers pay for it. I don’t think you can have it both ways.”

The case on trial involves a woman who was diagnosed with Stage 4 ovarian cancer after using talcum powder in the genital region for many years. Her lawsuit alleges that J&J and talc supplier Imerys Talc were aware of this risk but failed to warn the public. Her cancer and subsequent complications have substantially reduced her life expectancy, jurors heard. She alleges that she would not have used talcum powder for feminine hygiene if she were fully informed of the risks.

Earlier this year, juries awarded verdicts of $72 million and $55 million to talcum powder plaintiffs.

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