A federal jury in South Dakota late last week decided that Johnson & Johnson should warn consumers of the link between ovarian cancer and the use of its widely promoted talcum powder for feminine hygiene. In reaching the decision, the jury also determined that the product, Shower To Shower, contributed to the cancer contracted by a woman who used the powder for 32 years.
Deane Berg, 56, filed a lawsuit against the healthcare giant four years ago after learning about the link from a pamphlet that mentioned studies dating back decades that had shown an association between the talcum powder and ovarian cancer, The Argus-Leader writes. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2006 and did not have any risk factors for the disease, according to the lawsuit (here it is).
In arguing her case, her lawyers maintained Berg would not have used the powder had she known of the association, but J&J failed to issue a warning. Her lawsuit cited several studies indicating use in the female genital area increased the risk of ovarian cancer. For instance, a study published in 2000 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found a modest elevation in risk for developing invasive serious ovarian cancer (here it is). And a study published in 2004 in the International Journal of Cancer concluded there is “some support” for the hypothesis that talc use is associated with an increased risk (here is the abstract).
For its part, J&J argued that its talcum powder is safe and that research showing a definitive link has never been strong enough to warrant a warning. The health care giant also noted that the jury did not award any damages to Berg and did not agree that J&J powders are defective without a warning label, according to the paper. [UPDATE: A J&J spokeswoman writes us that "this is consistent with decades of scientific evidence, including independent peer-reviewed studies, supporting the safety of cosmetic talc." She sent us abstracts, which you can read here, here and here.]
But Berg's lawyers countered that J&J (JNJ) was aware of the risks and chose not to place a warning label on the product. One physician who analyzed Berg’s cancer tissue, Daniel Cramer, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Harvard Medical School, told the jury that talc was probably a contributing factor in 10,000 cases of ovarian cancer each year, the paper writes.
The verdict comes one month after Pharmalot reported that J&J received a subpoena from Mississippi attorney general Jim Hood, who is investigating promotional practices of talcum powders. At the time, a spokeswoman for the Mississippi AG wrote that “we are concerned about potential problems with the use of talc as a feminine hygiene product. We have a duty to investigate issues that have been provided to us and, after proper due diligence, will take any further steps necessary to protect our citizenry" (back story).
STORY ENDS HERE